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Report slams teacher prep in Georgia
GSU, others cite incomplete data for conclusions
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Read the entire report, plus ratings by state and institution, at www.nctq.org.

Read a response by Dr. Thomas R. Koballa Jr., the dean of the College of Education at Georgia Southern University, at http://coe.georgiasouthern.edu/blog/2013/06/20/coe-responds-to-new-report.

A national report released last week slams the vast majority of teacher preparation programs across the country, including in Georgia and specifically at Georgia Southern University.
Leaders of teacher prep programs fired back quickly — in some cases, even before the report was released — criticizing the National Council on Teacher Quality’s heavy reliance on syllabi and course documentation and lack of on-site program evaluation.
The report, which was published on the council’s website, www.nctq.org, and in U.S. News & World Report, concludes that no programs preparing elementary teachers – and only a very few preparing secondary-level teachers – are doing a good job. The only highly rated programs in Georgia, according to the council’s “Teacher Prep Review,” are:
Clayton State University, graduate-level secondary, 3.5 stars out of 4
Mercer University, undergraduate secondary, 3 stars
University of Georgia, undergraduate and graduate secondary, both 3 stars
“New teachers deserve training that will enable them to walk into their own classroom on their first day ready to teach, but our ‘Review’ shows that we have a long way to go,” said Kate Walsh, the president of the council. “While we know a lot about how to train teachers, those practices are seldom evident in the vast majority of programs.”
That might be because the council’s researchers did not collect enough evidence, said Dr. Thomas R. Koballa Jr., the dean of the College of Education at Georgia Southern.
The report gave GSU’s graduate secondary program 1.5 stars and its undergraduate elementary program 1 star. Georgia Southern was hardly alone, as a total of 16 programs in the state had fewer than 2 stars. In fact, several had zero stars.
Why such dismal ratings? Walsh said it’s because colleges of education across the country do not have the right focus.
“It’s very interesting to us that you’re not going to see a lot of elite colleges here on the list of stronger performers,” she said during a conference call with reporters Tuesday.
Walsh said leaders at some more-selective institutions that did not get high ratings “are very disparaging of some of the needs that public schools have for their new teachers and have decided for themselves that they should be doing something other than what public schools want and need.”
Koballa emphasized that the council’s report uses data from the 2010-11 academic year, and Georgia Southern has made significant changes in its education courses since then. Reflecting a criticism that others had of the report, Koballa said that looking only at the course syllabi and textbooks does not give a complete picture of what education students actually learn.
“A syllabus really provides only an overview of the content addressed in the course and doesn’t deal with all the details,” he said. “The textbooks would probably be identified in a syllabus, but more today than 10 years ago, instructors rely on more than just the textbook. They often use online materials, readings, videos, simulations and so forth.”
He added that Georgia Southern works closely with school districts in the state to ensure its teacher prep programs produce graduates who meet the districts’ needs. Bulloch County Schools spokeswoman Hayley Greene said the district has a good working relationship with Georgia Southern’s College of Education and other teacher prep programs in the state.
Not all the news in the council’s report was bad.
In the Master of Arts in Teaching program, Georgia Southern received 4 stars for training in Common Core State Standards middle school content, classroom management and secondary methods.
“School systems are addressing the Common Core State Standards,” Koballa said. “We do all we can to ensure our graduates are prepared to teach in the classrooms of Georgia school systems.”
For their part, Bulloch County school system officials say they have had no problems with the qualifications of newly hired teachers in the last several years.
The district has not hired many instructors because of its ongoing attrition program during the prolonged economic downturn. But of the teachers hired in the last four years, nearly all of them were designated as “highly qualified” by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission, according to Kevin Judy, the district’s assistant superintendent for human resources.
Despite citing the report’s limitations, Koballa said it does have value.
“It’s one of many data points colleges need to consider,” he said. “We’ll use the report and other data about our efforts to prepare teachers to continue to improve our programs and better document our practices.”

Jason Wermers may be reached at (912) 489-9431.

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