Ann Blackwell

The Importance of Context

On Tuesday, June 18th the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) published ratings of teacher education programs in the U.S. News & World Report. The NCTQ Teacher Preparation Review collected limited data on more than 1,100 colleges and universities that prepare elementary and secondary teachers across the nation. The stated goal of this review is to serve as a consumer tool to prospective students when choosing a teacher preparation program and to principals and superintendents when recruiting graduates to their school districts.

At Southern Miss, we encourage prospective students to be informed consumers when choosing their teacher preparation program and principals and superintendents to be informed when recruiting graduates to their school districts. Therefore, the Professional Education Unit at Southern Miss maintains a public data website where all constituents can review our teacher candidate performance to make an educated decision about the quality of our programs: https://www.usm.edu/education-psychology/epp-data.

It may also be useful to provide some context regarding the use of the NCTQ Review as a consumer tool. For example, it does not represent a comprehensive review of teacher preparation programs. Instead, the NCTQ Review relies primarily on the review of course syllabi and textbooks. It does not address critical outputs of teacher education programs related to knowledge, skills, and professional dispositions necessary to have a positive impact on students and increase student learning outcomes.  Furthermore, the NCTQ standards are not evidence-based nor does the research methodology meet the standards of basic scientific research. In fact, NCTQ acknowledges in its report that the review is not comprehensive, the data are document-derived and in some cases outdated, the sample is biased, and standards are not consistently applied across colleges and universities.

The Professional Education Unit at Southern Miss is dedicated to continuous improvement of our teacher education programs, and we embrace accountability and transparency through a number of performance indicators. All educator preparation programs at Southern Miss are fully accredited by the National Commission for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and participate in a continuous self-study process. The programs are also approved through the Mississippi Department of Education whereby we annually participate in the Mississippi Educator Preparation Program Process and Performance Review. Southern Miss also submits annual reporting data to multiple regulatory bodies including the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education and the Federal Title II Institutional and Program Report Card. In other words, we understand and embrace accountability.

The fact is we take our responsibilities very seriously and remain committed to meeting and exceeding national standards regarding teacher preparation. The standards we are measured by, however, need to be based on sound  research principles. The process of evaluation should also represent recognized standards of research. Our prospective students, current students, graduates, and other stakeholders deserve nothing less.

Ann Blackwell
Ann Blackwell
Dr. Ann P. Blackwell serves as dean of the College of Education and Psychology at The University of Southern Mississippi.

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