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Politics

UCF Teaching Program Makes the Mark, But No Other Florida Schools Do

June 26, 2013 - 6:00pm

The University of Central Florida stood alone at the top after receiving the highest marks in the state from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) for its undergraduate secondary program to prepare future teachers. The university received three out of four stars to make Teacher Prep Reviews Honor Roll in 2013.

The NCTQ analyzed 1,130 teaching programs across the country for the Teacher Prep Review. For the study, the council identified 18 standards for teacher preparation programs, such as instructing would-be educators how to implement Common Core State Standards, teach non-native English speakers and manage classrooms. The NCTQ spent eight years narrowing down the standards and conducted several pilot studies to make sure the standards were tough, but fair.

The researchers spent an average of 40 hours in grading each education program.

Universities that ended up earning three stars or higher are those that combine an eye for the talent teachers need, strong content knowledge preparation, and well-structured opportunities to practice the craft of teaching.

Only 105 universities across the country made the cut for the Honor Roll for their teacher preparation programs. The state with the greatest number of colleges making the Honor Roll was Tennessee, with 10 colleges receiving three to four stars for their programs. New York trailed closely behind the Volunteer State with eight universities making the list.

UCF was the only university in the entire state of Florida to make the Honor Roll.

Some teaching programs in Florida actually received zero stars. Among them were St. Petersberg College Graduate Elementary, Florida State College at Jacksonvilles Graduate Elementary program, and Edison State Colleges Undergraduate elementary program.

The NCTQ said theres a big problem with teaching preparation across the country: there are simply too many teachers, and not enough quality.

"Through an exhaustive and unprecedented examination of how these schools operate, the review finds they have become an industry of mediocrity, churning out first-year teachers with classroom management skills and content knowledge inadequate to thrive in classrooms, said the report.

The report found that there are almost triple the number of graduates needed to fill teaching positions across the country.

In order to combat the mediocrity, the NCTQ advised increasing the rigor of admissions standards to make sure the cream of the crop matriculates to universities. No schools in Florida earned a Strong Design designation on this standard.

The NCTQ also advised aspiring teachers to apply to the schools making the Honor Roll, and also said districts should recruit from these programs, saying the field of teacher education can learn from [them].

But while the NCTQs evaluation results showed little to cheer for regarding teaching programs across the country, it also showed Floridas universities doing slightly better than the national average in several teacher prep categories.

In terms of student teaching, only 23 percent of Floridas schools entirely failed to ensure a high-quality student teaching experience. A high-quality student teaching experience means students are assigned only to highly skilled teachers and receive frequent concrete feedback during their student teaching. Florida outshone the national average in this area by nearly 50 percent -- 71 percent of programs nationwide failed this standard.

Early reading instruction also fared better in Florida than it did across the country, with almost half of the elementary programs in Florida preparing future teachers with effective reading instruction for their students. Only 29 percent -- almost a third -- of programs provided this training nationally.

Florida again outperformed the national average for high school content preparation, with 37 percent of Florida secondary programs earning four stars for their content preparation. Only 35 percent of secondary programs nationwide earned four stars for their content preparation.

But while there were many positives about Floridas teaching programs, the NCTQ hinted universities across the state still have more work to do.

According to the report, Floridas elementary programs need some work for their content preparation, as only 3 percent of Floridas elementary programs earned three or four stars for providing future teachers with adequate content preparation, compared to 11 percent of elementary programs nationwide.

Elementary and secondary programs also arent as selective as they are nationwide, which the study says is a big problem.

It is far too easy to get into a teacher preparation program, said the report. Just over a quarter of programs restrict admissions to students in the top half of their class, compared with the highest-performing countries, which limit entry to the top third.

The NCTQ explained there needs to be a real change for teachers of the future. "Should first-year teaching be the equivalent of fraternity hazing, an inevitable rite of passage? Is there no substitute for 'on-the-job' training of novice teachers? The answers are obvious," read the report. "We need more effective teacher preparation. Ourprofound belief that new teachers and our children deserve better from Americas preparation programs is the touchstoneof this project."


Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen at Allison@sunshinestatenews.com.

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