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Put On Your Hip Boots: NCTQ Is At It Again.

June 18, 2013

Today, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) released its “first ever” “comprehensive” report to the American public “with US News and World Report as publisher.” And according to the NCTQ press release, the results of this sure-to-be-high quality report are “dismal.” Actually, what is “dismal” is how incredibly lame this report is. NCTQ believes that it can sell the American public a piece of propaganda so blatantly foolish that the public would have no choice but to trust NCTQ for a “bold” solution to this “urgent and sweeping” teacher preparation dilemma. (Forgive me. I had to add some overused reformer words in that last sentence.)

Surely NCTQ is both qualified to assess teacher preparation programs and to pass judgment as to what “new teachers deserve” but are not receiving, right?

Surely not.

Most of the NCTQ advisory board members are not teachers. When I wrote this post in February 2013, the NCTQ advisory board was comprised of 33 individuals, including the notorious Michelle Rhee, who was quietly removed even as the scandal surrounding cheating during her tenure as DC chancellor continues to heat up. Today, the board has 25 members, 24 of whom I reviewed as part of my NCTQ series.

(A side note on “former” advisory board member Stefanie Sanford, as in Gates Foundation right-hand who is now with College Board, is still listed as a board member on the sham report released today. Seems her name was dropped from the NCTQ website but retained on the NCTQ 06-18 report.)

Most of these people are not teachers. In fact, only three of NCTQ’s advisory board members fit my criteria of who should be on a board in which a primary goal involves the rating of teacher training programs. As I explain in the original post:

The final category, the A category, represents the professionals of whom an advisory board associated with rating teacher training programs should be comprised:  Persons who completed training in programs like those they are rating and who have experience as classroom teachers; who evidence no connection to corporate reform, especially no connection to reformer money (I excuse these folks for the unavoidable fact that NCTQ itself accepts reformer money); in matters ethical, without blemish.

I am happy to have found such people on the NCTQ advisory board.  I am sad that out of 33 members, only 3 (under 10%) fit this category:

Barry Kaufman (XIII)

Amy Jo Leonard  (XII)

Suzanne Wilson  (XII)

These three individuals continue to serve as members of the NCTQ advisory board. Elie Gaines, a new addition to the advisory board since my review, is also a teacher, but she runs an education business. Thus, according to my previous criteria for grading the board, this presents a conflict of interest. Indeed, the information included her NCTQ bio demonstrates a bias toward corporate reform:

Elie Gaines has served education for over 30 years. She earned a B.A. in Early Childhood and Special Education and an M.Ed. from Northern Arizona University, and an M.A. in Elementary Education Math and Science from University of Missouri-­‐Kansas City. She taught in K-­‐2 classrooms in private and public schools, served three years as a PS-­‐6th grade elementary school Principal, and has been a National Consultant for the Core Knowledge Foundation since 2001. She was a 2004 Arizona recipient of a Milken National Educator Award and serves on various local, state, and national boards and committees in support of PS-­‐20 education and education reform. She co-­‐wrote a school charter approved by the AZ State Board for Charter Schools in 2013. She remains involved with schools and families as the lead school search consultant in her own school search business. Her areas of expertise are curriculum, leadership, and school systems. [Emphasis added.]

What I have bolded are “reform agenda indicators,” which also include Gaines’ running a school consulting business, All Schools Considered, in Arizona, a state with reform-promoted “open enrollment.” This privatizing of the education sector makes businesses like Gaines’ possible:

Arizona supports open enrollment in the public school sector, which includes local school districts and charter schools, as well as offers a wide range of parochial and private schools. In a state with a population nearing 6.5 million, the sheer number of options can be daunting. ASC founder and adviser Elie Gaines applies her professional expertise and knowledge of Arizona’s schools to serve as your family’s supporter and unbiased advisor. Our personalized search process is an interactive one, and we’re with you every step of the way.

Notice the phrasing: “Arizona supports open enrollment.” It sounds so encouraging… except that Arizona charter schools are corporate-friendly opportunities for under-regulated pocket lining.

So, I am sorry to write that I cannot include Elie Gaines as an A-level member of the NCTQ advisory board. Too many reformer red flags waving. Therefore, of the 25 current advisory board members, only three possess indisputable credentials, experience, and absence of potential fiscal and ideological conflicts necessary to rate traditional teacher training programs.

NCTQ grades teacher preparation programs despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of its advisory board members have never experienced traditional teacher training themselves.

How arrogant of NCTQ to believe it is in a position to “inform the public” regarding “teacher quality.”

And what of NCTQ’s alliance with US News and World Report?

For reformers, no alliance is limited to two individuals. Just know that.

Mortimer Zuckerman, billionaire CEO and editor-in-chief of US News and World Report and owner/publisher of the New York Daily News,  is recognized by Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE) as a “reformer.” Zuckerman’s own writing supports as much in a piece on the 2009 Cardozo High School rally in DC:

None of the speakers at the rally fell back on tired nostrums to excuse the poor performance of minority students or to justify the need for new spending. Not a single civil rights leader said that disadvantaged students are too burdened by poverty to perform well in school. They did not say that the solution to the achievement gap was to shower new money on urban schools. Nor did anyone suggest that achievement tests were inherently unfair to minority students and should not be used under the No Child Left Behind Act to hold schools, principals, and teachers accountable for student performance.

Thus, the CEO and editor-in-chief of US News and World Report has the same reformer bent as does Kate Walsh and her NCTQ.  And both Zuckerman and Walsh are FEE-recognized “reformers.” (Read about Walsh here. It is truly enlightening.) Jeb Bush uses FEE and another of his reform organizations, Chiefs for Change, to forcefully advance education privatization nationwide, including influencing elections and shaping education policy via shady manipulation.

Zuckerman also sits on the board of directors of  the Fund for Public Schools,  “public-private partnership” expressly designed for advancing New York education reform (i.e., privatization of public schools):

In 2002 Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel I. Klein established public-private partnerships as a critical means of supporting public education reform and building support for the city’s public schools. Now under the leadership of Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott, The Fund is the primary vehicle for advancing these efforts. [Emphasis added.]

As to more tangling of the web:  Bloomberg, whose education reform policies  via appointees like Joel Klein clearly favor charter schools, wants to fund his own charter schools, paid for out of Bloomberg Philanthropies, a group funded by the Gates Foundation– and on whose board of directors Jeb Bush sits.

By the way, Gates also funds NCTQ.

I know. It’s difficult to keep track of the financial back-scratching.

What is important to remember is that NCTQ is steeped in (undeniably fiscal) associations biased toward corporate reform.

As to the ranking of programs, US News and World Report has been ranking colleges and hospitals for decades. Its college rankings have been criticized for the superficial nature of the data collected. As Kevin Carey of Education Sector notes in 2006:

The U.S. News rankings have become the nation’s de facto higher education accountability system—evaluating colleges and universities on a common scale and creating strong incentives for institutions to do things that raise their ratings.

But the U.S. News ranking system is deeply flawed. Instead of focusing on the fundamental issues of how well colleges and universities educate their students and how well they prepare them to be successful after college, the magazine’s rankings are almost entirely a function of three factors: fame, wealth, and exclusivity. They directly or indirectly account for 95 percent of a school’s ranking…. [Emphasis added.]

Carey then takes the list of information US News collects on the colleges and universities and classifies it into one of four categories: fame, wealth, exclusivity, and quality. The only quality item is “graduation rate performance, predicted vs. actual.”

It is important to note that none of the information collected by US News for its college and university rankings requires a site visit. It appears that the same is true of its hospital rankings.

The American Institutes for Research (AIR) has noted the shortcomings of using document reviews to measure teacher preparation program effectiveness. In its 2012 Evaluating the Effectiveness of Teacher Preparation Programs for Support and Accountability report, AIR lists several challenges with using process measures to evaluate teacher preparation programs: The research base of a document review is not robust enough to build assessment for accountability based on process measures; process measures do not always accurately capture what actually happens in preparation programs…. [Emphasis added.]

All that this hyped-yet-empty NCTQ “assessment” of teacher training programs proves is that well-connected reformers lacking in solid education  backgrounds and harboring suspicious, self-serving motives can publish whatever they like, proclaim it to be The Truth, and damage the reputations of those they declare to be Unfit.

In any research report, the funders, board members, and other contributors interest me, for they can tell a reader important information regarding the potential biases in a report before one even reads the report. Yet I find many overlook these oft-fine-print pages preceding the body of a research work.

And what of funders listed on the actual NCTQ report?

Of course, funders are able to hide their identities via anonymity. Only two national funders did so. Nevertheless, one can readily read the names of wealthy foundations more than willing to dole out big bucks all for the sake of privatizing public education, including the Arnold and Dell foundations, and… one of The Big Three in undermining public education… the Broad Foundation. Eli Broad in well known for making his wishes to privatize known. He wrote a detailed report in 2009 telling schools (not suggesting, but telling) what reforms one could expect to be in place by 2012. Incidentally, several NCTQ members participated in the report, including NCTQ President Kate Walsh.

There’s more: Broad published a “manifesto,” also in collaboration with several NCTQ advisory board members. Main points of the Manifesto include inserting “talented” individuals outside of the field of education into key education administration positions.

The reformer world is a close-knit world. Nothing like having a common goal to destroy traditional public education.

The very fact that Broad financed this NCTQ report is reason enough to doubt its fairness to traditional training programs.

Another Broad-funded program is the Havard Graduate School of Education (HGSE), now offering a doctorate focused on corporate reformPartners for this  amazingly “tuition-free degree” include NCTQ advisory board members Wendy Kopp (Teach for America) and Joel Klein (via Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp/Wireless Generation). Also “partnering” is Mayor Bloomberg (New York State Department of Education).

Notice how eerily complementary this 2011 comment by HGSE teacher education director Katherine Mersdeth is to the oft-promoted, NCTQ “dismal” view of traditional teacher training programs:

The director of teacher education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education was quoted on a New York Times online forum as saying that of the nation’s 1,300 graduate teacher-training programs, only about 100 were doing a competent job.

The rest “could be shut down tomorrow,” said Harvard’s Katherine Merseth. [Emphasis added.]

Why, NCTQ could have said those same words just today.

Same sandbox; same language.

It gets better:  The Broad Foundation also funds Jeb Bush’s FEE, which, you might recall, endorses both Walsh (NCTQ) and Zuckerman (US News).

Its’ a web, folks.  There’s not enough space here for me to do the entanglements justice.

But do stay tuned: Another major concern regarding the credibility of the NCTQ ratings is Rhode Island Commissioner of Education Deborah Gist’s involvement on the technical panel. Gist is a member of Bush’s Chiefs for Change. She is also a graduate of the Broad Superintendents Academy, one of those “talented” individuals outside of education now positioned to make reform happen at any cost.  Former-basketball-player-gone-US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan proclaimed himself as her endorser for a renewed term:

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Rhode Islanders should look at progress made in its schools while weighing the fate of state education commissioner Deborah Gist. Duncan made the comment on a conference call with Rhode Island reporters.

In a call of support for Gist, Duncan touted rising test scores and graduation rates as signs that the state is making progress. Teachers and parents have been outspoken in their opposition to Gist. But Duncan defends her, calling her collaborative. . . .

Never mind Gist’s dismal (now there’s an appropriate use of the word) approval rating prior to her reappointment: 85% of teachers polled did not want Gist back:

The survey of 402 [out of approximately 10,500] teachers shows 85% of those asked believe Gist’s contract should not be renewed. The poll also found that 73% of teachers find Gist to be “somewhat ineffective” or “infective” and another 82% feel less respected than they did when Gist was hired in 2009.

Incidentally, Duncan took advice for Race to the Top criteria from Jeb Bush via Chiefs for Change, and Gist is a member of Chiefs for Change, and now she is both reappointed as RI Commissioner of Education and a contributor to the fabulous work in biased reformer propaganda that is the NCTQ teacher training ratings report.

Never forget: The reformer world is a close-knit world.

I am sure there is more evidence that I could present to demonstrate the undeniably questionable nature of any report issued by NCTQ. Others have presented detailed information about specifics of the June 18, 2013, NCTQ report’s findings, including Linda Darling-Hammond, Bruce Baker, and Lisa Johnson Kiefer. Do read their work. As for my intention with this post:  It was simply to raise questions regarding the inextricable associations between NCTQ and the corporate reform agenda.

Mission accomplished.

In closing, let me suggest that readers take the advice of this university dean who wrote the following to his education faculty in preparing for the axe that NCTQ was to drop on those it is not qualified to judge:

…When the NCTQ/U.S. News grades come out, my interest will be piqued and I will most likely take a look. But frankly whatever grade they give to us, it will be neither a cause for celebration nor grief. We choose to be truly responsible for the quality of our programs as opposed to joining in the ideologically driven cacophony of false debates and information that is, at best, of questionable value.

Selah. Pause and calmly think about that.

17 Comments
  1. Betty Peters permalink

    Thanks for sharing this.

  2. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    Thanks for the update. New follower. long time worker in arts education, policy wonk since the late 1960s when the “Great Society” programs rolled out and us educators is art where going to train all the creative scientists that would beat the Russians in the Space Race, and all that jazz. Not so cynical that I can stop ranting., on NCTQ, you have probably cited this info, but it may be timely to repeat it. NCTQ had startup funding in 2001 from the US Department of Education. At the time I was tracking it about a year ago three anonymous donors (ignoring its stated desire for transparency!) and fifty-six foundations were supporters including (of course) the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Broad Foundation, and Carnegie Corporation and ” shrubs,” as Mollie Ivins or Ann Richards might say. You have that gift. As a worker in arts education I noticed that NCTQ criteria say that elementary classroom teachers in grades K-5 should be responsible for all subjects, and that a liberal education, with one course in art history or one course in music history (preferably both) is sufficient for this job. (I guess so if you can read scripts from E.D. Hirsch and put all the clay and paints in a lockbox, can’t read music, or want kids making music). You probably reported that In 2012, NCTQ was recruiting persons to obtain course syllabi from teacher education programs, then judge the quality of the syllabi for a payment of $20 an hour. Sawchuck, S. (2012, November 7). Teacher colleges told to release syllabuses. Education Week, 32(11), 4. An expose of the “$20 an hour checklist would be great if you have not already taken that on.

    • Hi, Laura. Thank you for your detailed comment. Not to worry: I have documented these issues in my series.

    • Other Spaces permalink

      “NCTQ criteria say that elementary classroom teachers in grades K-5 should be responsible for all subjects, and that a liberal education, with one course in art history or one course in music history”

      It’s ironic that they have any specific requirements at all, including minimum GPAs, SATs or GREs, since they support alternative certification programs like ABCTE which is a correspondence program and requires only a BA. But then, correspondence and single pedagogy military style drill sergeant teacher prep programs, which they did not rate in their report, are like the unregulated charter and voucher schools that corporate “reformers” so adore, compared to the over-regulated public schools and, if they have their way, traditional Teacher Ed programs. It’s readily apparent that the former are the pampered darlings that corporate “reformers” want to keep and expand and the latter are the pesky dependent step children they aim to be rid of and destroy.

  3. George Buzzetti permalink

    Another one of those faux groups to promote privatization and corporatization and the destruction of teaching as a profession. For only 3 to be on a group that rates teachers is insane. For all to have to be teachers is also not proper but almost all with no teaching experience is way wrong and has not credibility if nothing else. How can there be credibility with this situation, it does not compute. Thank you once again Mercedes Schneider for being someone who knows what they are talking about and having the documented proofs. This is rare I have found and we greatly appreciate it. There is no way to beat them without the proofs that are documented with their own documents and signatures on them. They do not know how to defend against this approach. What can they say when it is theirs? Never trust anyone until they have a long proven track record. Anything else is foolish and asking to be backstabbed as is usual.

  4. Yvonne Siu-Runyan permalink

    NCTQ = HUBRIS

  5. Galton permalink

    Wonderful reporting!
    So what does an “endorsement” from the Chiefs For Change really mean then? I believe Jeb had all his little Indians endorse the NCTQ report!
    Will any journalist ask Chris Cerf and the other BROADIE chiefs if they stand by their endorsements?

    • An endorsement from Chiefs for Change means nothing separate from Jeb Bush’s political pull.

      I would like to see the journalists force the question and make C4C members answer for themselves.

      • Galton permalink

        Yes,
        It seems obvious that the “Chiefs” are following orders. How very unchiefly of them.

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