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San Diego Teacher Prep Programs Dismiss New Ratings

A report from the National Council on Teacher Quality and U.S. News withheld its highest marks, three or more out of four stars, from all but 9 percent of the 1,200 teacher preparation programs reviewed for the first time by the council.

Aired 6/19/13 on KPBS News.

A report rating 1,200 teacher preparation programs across the country gave only four California programs high marks. UC San Diego was among those standouts. But many are criticizing the report’s methods.

The council review of programs focused on four areas: selectivity in admissions, content preparation in the school curriculum, professional skill training and programs' attention to "outcomes and evidence of impact." Nearly two thirds, 64 percent, of California teacher preparation programs were given the report's lowest ratings - "Consumer Concern." Just four California programs got the council's highest rate including the University of California-San Diego's program for future high school teachers.

But instead of lauding the top rating, the University of California criticized the report's methods.

Amanda Datnow chairs UC San Diego’s education studies department. She said the group’s reliance on documents and curriculum instead of site visits and interviews makes her skeptical of the results. The rankings excluded the school’s program for elementary school teachers, she said, even though the school submitted the same documentation for each of it's teacher preparation programs.

“Some of the strengths of our programs – both programs - including the preparation of teachers to teach English language learners and serve diverse students don’t show up in those rankings," she said. "So it’s a bit mystifying how those results were produced.”

San Diego State College of Education Dean Rick Hovda said California State University representatives had similar concerns when the Council launched its review several years ago.

“And institutions in the system did not actively participate as a result," he said, "except as minimally required with public records, which means things like providing available syllabi as that was requested.”

San Diego State’s elementary and high school prep programs were given the report’s lowest ratings. So were programs at the University of San Diego and Point Loma Nazarene University, which also declined to participate. Public universities in Florida, New York and several other states also opted not to participate in the review.

But Hovda said it was not because of a resistance to assessment. He said SDSU's College of Education solicits feedback from graduating students, alumni who have been in the workforce for at least a year and their students' supervisors among others.

But others, like San Diego County Superintendent of Schools Randy Ward said the calls to improve teacher preparation programs have been on-going and largely unheeded by universities because they've had a monopoly on teacher education.

'It's time for teachers colleges to join the 21st century," he said. "They do not take the college student who wants to be a teacher and prepare them for all of what they will need to know and be able to do when they enter into an urban classroom with needs and perhaps cultures they're not familiar with."

Ward said pressure like the council's report and the proliferation of alternative routes to teacher credentials may be the only way to make traditional programs evolve.

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