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NCTQ’s Varicose Reform

March 18, 2013

Decades ago, my mother had to have surgery for varicose veins.  Though some people are prone to such maladies, I am sure that her giving birth to six children complicated the issue.  What I learned years ago about varicose veins is that the blood flows backwards and produces the bulging, dark masses that I had become accustomed to seeing on the backs of my mother’s legs.

I think it is easy to conceive that blood flowing backwards in the human body could cause problems.  The same holds true when the lifeblood of an institution such as public education is forced into corporate-induced counterflow.

Aside from the corporations themselves, many groups are currently contributing to the corporate-induced counterflow. One such group is the National Council on Teacher Quality.

I would like to perform a little surgery of my own in this blog.  A dissection of sorts.

Don’t worry.  I’m a doctor.

Having reviewed the members of the advisory board of the National Council on Teacher Quality, I will now review NCTQ in general and grade its performance.

Let us first consider NCTQ’s background and position.

NCTQ Background and Position

NCTQ was founded in 2000 by the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Foundation as “a new entity to promote alternative certification and to break the power of the hated ed schools.” As former Fordham board member Diane Ravitch notes,

We thought they (traditional teacher training programs) were too touchy-feely, too concerned about self-esteem and social justice and not concerned enough with basic skills and academics. In 1997, we had commissioned a Public Agenda study called “Different Drummers”; this study chided professors of education because they didn’t care much about discipline and safety and were more concerned with how children learn rather than what they learned.

Thus, NCTQ was created in opposition to traditional teacher training. Its website byline notes that NCTQ “is committed to restructuring the teaching profession.”

NCTQ is undeniably biased in favor of corporate reform. Consider their slant on the ruling that Louisiana’s Act 1 is unconstitutional:

A headline a couple days ago certainly caught our attention: Louisiana teacher tenure changes ruled unconstitutional. This is big!

Well, turns out, the only big thing about this is apparently the scope of the bill in question. Jindal’s ed reform legislation from last year was thrown out Monday for containing “too many items.” No judgment was made on any of the actual contents of the bill. [Judging contents was not the suit.]

This technicality refers to the ‘one object provision,’ in place in most states to protect against legislative logrolling and free-riding. To our knowledge, this procedural card has not been pulled before on any other states’ ed reform bills, many which are quite comprehensive in nature. [Perhaps other states will follow Louisiana’s lead.]

Jindal’s team  [Go team??] is appealing the decision. Even if the appeal is lost and the bill ultimately has to be subdivided and reintroduced, it’s unlikely any of the reforms will be squashed. The tenure and compensation bill passed 64-40 in the House last March and 23-16 in the Senate last April. The support margin here is large and legislator turnover has been small, which frankly, makes this look like a stall tactic. [This legislature is not as pro-Jindal as it was last year based upon Jindal’s disregard for the budget.]  [Emphasis and commentary added.]

Everything about the tone of the above “report” is pro-reform. And the writer seems certain that she knows Louisiana, and Louisiana law, and Louisiana legislative voting stability enough to call a future outcome.

NCTQ: “Adding Value”

Indeed, the entire NCTQ website is rife with corporate reform propaganda. Some of it is hidden in plain sight. Take, for example, this statement regarding the NCTQ position on teacher preparation:

Although the nation’s 1,400 education schools have long been the subject of criticism, we strongly believe that formal teacher preparation can and should add value.  [Emphasis added.]

The statement might appear to be a general statement, one with which any teacher might agree.  However, the statement is loaded in its use of the term, “add value.”  “Add value” is a corporate concept. Consider this business tutorial:

Adding value sounds like a bit of business jargon – and it is! However, it also has quite a precise meaning which is important. So it is worth learning this:

Adding value = the difference between the price of the finished product/service and the cost of the inputs involved in making it

Added value is equivalent to the increase in value that a business creates by undertaking the production process. It is quite easy to think of some examples of how a production process can add value.

Consider the examples of new cars rolling down the production line being assembled by robots. The final, completed and shiny new car that comes off the production line has a value (price) that is more than the cost of the sum of the parts. Value has been added. Exactly how much is determined by the price that a customer pays.

Now, let’s make the transition from “add value” to a related business term, “value added”:

The enhancement a company gives its product or service before offering the product to customers. Value added is used to describe instances where a firm takes a product that may be considered a homogeneous product, with few differences (if any) from that of a competitor, and provides potential customers with a feature or add-on that gives it a greater sense of value.

Finally, let’s get to the hidden point behind the use of “add value” in corporate reform: In their use of the subtle term, “add value,” corporate reformers are endorsing value added modeling (VAM), or the shaky belief that teacher “effectiveness” can be quantified using student scores on standardized tests.

When NCTQ writes that it believes that “formal teacher preparation can and should add value,” make no mistake: NCTQ is advocating the corporate-driven view that teacher value “can and should” be determined via student test scores.

Kate Walsh, the Op/ed, and ABCTE

NCTQ President Kate Walsh is sold on the reformer agenda, enough to warrant this 2003-04 investigation by the US Inspector General (IG) regarding $677,318 in USDOE unsolicited grant money awarded to Oquirrh Institute and NCTQ. As the IG report notes:

The purpose of this unsolicited grant was to increase the American public’s exposure and understanding of the research and full spectrum of ideas on teacher quality.  According to the grantees’ monthly progress reports, NCTQ was able to publish op-eds in 11 newspapers; however, we have been able to obtain copies of only three.  The three op-eds we reviewed focused on proposed changes in teacher reform and NCLB.  Each op-ed advocated a particular viewpoint and did not contain the required disclaimer.[Emphasis added.]

Kate Walsh wrote all three op/eds.

The op-eds can be construed as advocating a particular point of view. In the op-ed published in the Mobile Register, Walsh states that the NCLB requirement that all teachers be rated “highly qualified” in the subjects they teach “is not overly demanding or unfair.” She later states “[t]he inability to reach consensus over these minimal requirements signals a resistance, however unintended, to putting the needs of children first.” [Emphasis added.]

Similarly, in the other two op-eds, Walsh advocated policy positions. In the op-ed published in the Grand Island Independent, she advocated changes in teacher qualification requirements in Nebraska. In the op-ed published in the Sacramento Bee, Walsh states: “[p]utting merit pay decisions in the hands of states or even school districts [sic] officials still will lead to excessively complicated formulas that suppress the potential benefits that merit pay could achieve.”

None of the op-eds we reviewed disclosed the role of the Department. Prior to the initial publication of the op-eds, a Department grants specialist reviewed a draft op-ed and reminded the grantee that the Department’s regulations at 34 C.F.R. § 75.620 require a disclaimer on all grant publications. The grant specialist did not know why the published op-eds did not contain the disclaimer. [Emphasis added.]

What we have here, folks, is blatant, undeniably intentional disregard for protocol.

As these op/eds were published without the EDGAR (Education Department General Administrative Regulations) disclaimer, the funds used to produce them may have resulted in an improper expenditure of grant funds. If all of the produced op-eds are similarly silent on the role of the Department, then all of the expenditures associated with goal one of the grant may have been improper. [Emphasis added.]

In the IG summation, USDOE is exonerated:

While three of the grants resulted in op-ed opinion pieces that did not include the disclaimer language required by the Education Department General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR) at 34 C.F.R. § 75.620, we did not find evidence to conclude that the Department awarded these grants with an intent to influence public opinion through the undisclosed use of third party grantees.  [Emphasis added.]

It seems that Kate Walsh’s NCTQ involvement in promoting a paid USDOE agenda is part of a much larger story involving former US Secretary of Education Rod Paige.

And what is the big deal, anyway, for publishing a simple opinion letter and not disclosing the over-half-a-million dollars from which these op/eds were funded?   I mean, can’t Kate Walsh just write about what she believes in because she believes in it?

Sure.  But not if she has accepted money to do so.  In the latter case, Walsh had a duty to disclose, which she actively and intentionally ignored.

Why conceal the funding behind the letters if not to present the illusion that no major organization (in this case, the USDOE) is promoting the messages? After all, wouldn’t it interfere with the “grassroots” facade to have a USDOE disclaimer attached to a seeming “home grown” opinion piece?

That is deceptive.  Astroturf reform disguised as grassroots.

And it is illegal. In fact, the IG report said that NCTQ needed to return the money for failure to disclose the funding:

The disclaimer language required by EDGAR applies to any publication produced with grant funds.  In the absence of the disclaimer language, the funds used to produce a publication may be an improper expenditure, requiring the Department to initiate appropriate recovery action.  The three op-ed pieces appear to be such expenditures.  [Emphasis added.]

Believe it or not, $677,318 is a relatively small sum when one considers just how kind former US Secretary of Education Paige was with his “discretionary” funds. (See Spokesman Review article, Follow the money, taxpayers, on page B5):

It seems that NCTQ accepted $6.25 million from Paige. But there’s more.  NCTQ’s brainchild, the American Board for the Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE), was awarded $35 million to develop a computerized teacher certification test. The writer of the Spokesman Review piece previously cited notes, “Pass their $500 test and you can teach in Idaho.” The cost has since risen to $1995 and has been extended as a “state approved route to teacher certification” in Florida, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, Nevada, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah.

Now keep in mind that NCTQ was started because conservatives viewed traditional teacher training programs as lacking rigor. So, this is the NCTQ answer, created in 2001 with the help of $5 million in Paige money: ABCTE-buy-a-degree.

What is interesting to note is that the Fordham Foundation created NCTQ to address perceived shortcomings of teacher training; however, NCTQ floundered even as it received what was questionable money in 2001 (the $5 million) from Paige:  The $5 million awarded to NCTQ was done so despite propsal rejection by two of the three reviewers of the NCTQ “unsolicited proposal to create a new national accreditation program for teachers” (ABCTE).  Within two years, and by the time USDOE offered money to NCTQ that resulted in Walsh’s op/eds, NCTQ has solidified its purpose as a corporate reform conduit. In fact, concurrent with the 2003-04 USDOE award of $677,318 connected to Walsh’s op/eds, NCTQ/ABCTE received $17,902,700 in unsolicited grant money from USDOE. The erratic manner in which Paige and USDOE awarded grant money resulted in this Government Accountability Office (GAO) audit and censure::

The Department of Education has the responsibility to ensure that when it makes discretionary grant awards it follows a transparent and fair process that results in awards to deserving eligible applicants. In the case of unsolicited applications, OII’s process is designed to meet statutory and regulatory requirements. However, Education based its decisions about the likely national significance and quality of proposals on information that varied greatly in detail and, as a result, sent applications forward for peer review that sometimes required extensive revisions. Without requiring a more uniform format for unsolicited proposals, OII may not have adequate information on which to base its screening decisions.

Regarding its competitive awards process, the department has put in place management controls that, if followed, provide a reasonable assurance that awards are made appropriately. These controls protect the integrity and transparency of the departmental grant award process…. When the department does not consistently follow these procedures, as we found to be the case, the integrity of its competitive grant award process may be undermined. Furthermore, in the absence of such diligence, actions taken that benefit specific grantees, such as those we found in 2001 and 2002, could happen again. 

We are making four recommendations to the Secretary of Education to address certain shortcomings in the department’s grant-making policies through a variety of executive actions designed to promote fairness, enhance transparency, and provide greater access to funding opportunities. Specifically, to improve the process for selecting and awarding grants based on unsolicited proposals, we are recommending that the Secretary develop a more systematic format to select unsolicited proposals for further consideration by peer reviewers….  [Emphasis added.]

So much exposure regarding NCTQ/ABCTE funding.  In 2005, Kate Walsh resigned from the ABCTE board in the wake of organizational instability:

Kathleen A. Madigan, the founding president of the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence, resigned last month. Meanwhile, the Education Leaders Council, the conservative-leaning group of education officials that got the board started in 2001, has been labeled a “high-risk grantee” for its handling of millions of dollars in federal grants.

Then, late last month (September 2005), Kate Walsh, the president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, quit the ABCTE board of directors. [Emphasis added.]

The hypocrisy of attempting to hold teacher education accountable while promoting a flimsy, easy-to-purchase “alternative” certification would haunt NCTQ in its 2011 efforts to join with Murdoch’s US News and World Report in a very public crusade to grade teacher prep programs. And well it should.


Note that NCTQ is also also aligned with former Florida governor Jeb Bush’s corporate reform machine, Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE).

A word about FEE: Jeb Bush uses FEE to promote his very-closely-ALEC-aligned, corporate reform agenda.  He also uses a superintendents group that he created, Chiefs for Change, to this end, as well.  For a closer look at the inner workings of FEE and Chiefs for Change, see this October 2011 series of email exchanges from the offices of FEE; these documents were provided as part of a public records request to Donald Cohen of In the Public Interest. (Notice the exchange between Maine’s Stephen Bowen, Jeb Bush, Patricia Levesque, and other  Bush “helpers”– pages 35 to 52 out of 78. Very enlightening exchange on how to “push the legislation through.” Bowen even mentions seeking and receiving Kate Walsh’s assistance– see page 57 of 78.)

In 2009, Walsh was a featured speaker of this organization that proudly advertises Excellence in Action, FEE’s second annual summit, as follows:

Excellence in Action is organized around seven Core Principles, including High Academic Standards, Objective Measurement of Student Progress, Data-Driven Accountability, Teacher Quality, School Choice, Outcome-Based Funding and Disruptive Innovation. [Emphasis added.]

Disruptive innovation.  Translation:  Do whatever it takes to push the reformer agenda.  Publish illegal op/eds.  Declare war on traditional teacher training programs then turn around and sell online teaching “credentials.”  Push change through. Make a profit. Call it reform.

Disruptive innovation.

Varicose reform.

Take the public education system and force it to flow backwards.

Retrograde flow.


Then, refer to what is really system damage as “innovation.”

NCTQ is devoted to educational reflux efforts.  Walsh was the moderator for this 2011 FEE Summit session:

During the last two years, states across the country have ushered in the most sweeping reforms of the teaching profession in our nation’s history. More meaningful evaluations. An end to tenure and destructive last-in, first-out policies. Salaries that reflect student learning rather than seniority. Learn how lawmakers and policymakers from states around the nation are changing the paradigm of the teaching profession. [Emphasis added.]

It sounds fancy, huh?  “Changing the paradigm.”

All that FEE and NCTQ advocate can be narrowed down to test scores.  Test scores are all-in-all.  They are to be worshiped.

NCTQ calls this test worship “reform.”

NCTQ and Broad

For years, several NCTQ board members knew that by 2012, the “sweeping reforms” would have “swept through” nationally. In April 2009, the Broad foundation published a paper advising states and school districts on how to spend $100 billion of USDOE money (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act [ARRA]) in order to “transform public education.”  Eight persons connected to NCTQ contributed to the Broad paper: Michael Barber, Chester Finn (wose organization originally created NCTQ), Joel Klein, Paul Pastorek, Michelle Rhee, Stefanie Sanford, Jonathan Schorr, and Kate Walsh.  The chilling piece here is that the reformers predicted that by 2012, corporate reform would command a nationwide presence:

This paper lays out five big ideas for investing the one-time recovery funds that, if seized, will enable parents, educators, taxpayers, and students to see real educational results by 2012 and provide the base for more dramatic improvements in the future. If states and districts focus their funds on these ideas, we believe that it will be a down payment on excellence that lays the groundwork to produce breakthrough gains in what our students learn and achieve for the next generation.

First, and most fundamental, by January 2012 Americans should expect to see a common core of fewer, clearer, higher, evidence-based, college- and career-ready standards adopted by at least 40 states representing the majority of the nation’s students.

Translation:  “Corporate reformers want to urge states and school districts to swallow our message.  But if you don’t, it really doesn’t matter because we have the financial means to make a national curriculum and its data-driven, standardized-test-score-based reform a reality whether you willingly cooperate or not.”

And “investing” is the key word for these modern foundations. They do not offer their money without their own lofty, unsolicited involvement in manipulating what they believe constitutes a satisfactory “return.”  Unlike education philanthropies of the past, modern mega-foundations such as Broad, Gates, and Walton expect to shape educational reform as they please. They view their wealth as purchasing for them this “right” to fashion reform according to their wealth-wielding wishes.

And as to the controversial, arguably-FERPA-violating collection of student data without parental consent:  This Broad report not only endorsed but predicted that by 2012, there would be a national system of student data:

In addition, by 2012, Americans should expect to see:

More robust and user-friendly data and information systems in every state, district, school, and classroom that provide students, parents, teachers, principals, and district and state leaders timely information to know what’s working, what’s not, and what additional help students need.  By using new federal dollars to build robust data systems and train educational leaders in how to use the information, our schools will help principals and teachers improve student achievement and ensure tax dollars are used most effectively.

By their involvement in the 2009 Broad report announcing this Orwellian database, the eight NCTQ associates listed above are connected to this invasive data collection effort.

What else is in that Broad report?

Data-driven teacher evaluations; a “rigorous and focused effort in every state to close and turn around 5% of its poorest performing schools”; the “student intervention” of a longer school day and year.

These changes are described as “transformative but affordable.”

“Affordable” to whom? Most stakeholders are paying with their reputations, livelihoods, and community stability.

The remainder of the report offers detailed instructions to governors and “state chiefs” and district superintendents. Very top-down. And very steeped in ideology absent concrete evidence of success.  Note this section on the “benefits” of school closure:

Students will have high-quality educational choices, no longer stuck in schools that have demonstrably failed them for many years.

Teachers and principals will have professional work environments, freed of the red tape and bureaucratic rules that tend to stifle innovation and excellence.

States will have a structure and process for systematically closing their lowest-performing schools and opening new schools with a track record of success.

The very act of closing the worst schools and requiring new schools to prove the success of their models will send a strong signal that policymakers and state and district leaders are serious about accountability and results.

High-performing public charter schools will receive resources to expand and serve more students, as long as they continue to demonstrate strong student results.  [Emphasis added.]

Every item above is propagandistic, ideological emptiness promoted at the expense of those subjected to these “reforms.”  And behind it all is the intentionally fostered fear of the low test score, as the second-to-last point illustrates.  Some of these so-called “benefits” are outright lies.  For example, teachers and principals are anything but “freed of the red tape and bureaucratic rules that tend to stifle innovation and excellence.” Have these Broad-endorsed reformers fallen on their heads? They tell teachers out of one side of their mouths that their very livelihoods depend upon “accountability and results,” and then they promise them freedom out of the other side.

The similarity between the 2009 Broad document and the 2011 draft of ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) presented as a part of these FEE emails is uncanny.

Notice also the parallels between Walsh’s July 2011 speech to the House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce and John Bailey’s draft on behalf of Chiefs for Change regarding ESEA legislation (FEE email release, page 45).

ESEA is both teacher-punitive and test-score-driven.

So is NCTQ.

NCTQ and Congress

In true corporate reform fashion, NCTQ has clearly and repeatedly demonstrated its commitment to data and testing above all else that could possibly contribute to education “quality.” In Walsh’s 2011 statement before the Committee on Education and the Workforce on behalf of NCTQ, she offers ten suggestions to Congress concerning “teacher quality.” I present them here, summarized in short form:

1) Require data tracking systems that allow for value added measurement.

2) Develop performance-based teacher evaluation systems.

3) No more “highly qualified”: Teacher demonstration of subject matter as demonstrated on “rigorous content tests.”

4) Ensure teacher content knowledge tests are rigorous.

5) Do not allow subject teachers to be generalists.

6) Develop a teacher quality index, including average ACT or SAT scores for a teacher’s undergraduate institution. Publicly report teacher performance.

7) Remove barriers to alternate routes to teacher and principal certification.

8) Report value added data for teacher training programs.

9) Tie finding to increasing and retaining highly effective (based on student scores) teachers.

10) Do not equalize teacher salaries across schools.

Seven of the ten suggestions above depend upon test scores. One (point five) appears to argue for teacher training rigor; however, another (point seven) arguably counters the argument for teacher training rigor, as “alternate certification” could include the $1995 ABCTE “buy-a-degree.”

NCTQ Perceived Entitlement

What I find truly amazing in Walsh’s statement before Congress is the clearly-noted, perceived NCTQ entitlement to rate teacher training programs at both at public and private institutions and her offended surprise that many institutions decline to cooperate.  NCTQ’s unequivocal devotion to “disruptive innovation” and its partnership with fellow corporate reform promoter Rupert Murdoch’s US News and World Report make NCTQ a biased review organization with the potential to nationally broadcast its slanted letter grade ratings of teacher training programs and damage such programs.  No wonder that teacher training programs refuse to participate.  Add to NCTQ’s incredible bias and ability to nationally stigmatize programs the fact that it is not even a recognized postsecondary accrediting agency. NCTQ is a self-declared policeman of teacher training and is itself accountable to no auditing agency.

On the NCTQ website, there is a link entitled, “The public has the right to know”; here NCTQ presents its argument for the need for “transparency” of teacher training programs. On this link, NCTQ purports, “We are keeping no secrets.”  NCTQ even offers two letters from universities refusing  to participate as well as Walsh’s letters of reply.

Let us consider these two letters and Walsh’s replies as president of NCTQ.

First, according to this letter, dated February 3, 2011, from the Association of American Universities (AAU) written to US News and World Report Editor Brian Kelly and copied to Kate Walsh on behalf of 36 teacher training programs, NCTQ is not transparent regarding its method of rating training programs. Furthermore, the ratings appear to be based upon the superficial evidence of course syllabi:

The methodology for conducting a NCTQ review is not transparent. A review of documents from NCTQ reveals that judgments made about education schools and critical comments made by NCTQ lack supporting evidence or information on the methodology used to arrive at the ratings….  

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the NCTQ evaluation did not assess what teachers know and can do, or whether what they do impacts student learning. Rather, judgments appear to be based on what content is included in syllabi gathered. It is not clear how the syllabi were reviewed, coded, or rated. Furthermore, there is little evidence given that the content NCTQ sought on syllabi affects teacher effectiveness.  [Emphasis added.]

This leaning on the content of syllabi and other course artifacts in order to judge teacher tranining programs is supported by this request on the NCTQ website as it pumps the public for such esoteric information in order to “grade” teacher training programs unwilling to volunteer to be graded:

In order to conduct our evaluation, NCTQ needs basic course materials from these institutions — the same materials students are routinely provided. We are primarily looking for certain course syllabi and materials relating to the student teaching program, such as student teaching handbooks.

We are appealing to students on public and private campuses to help by sharing these basic materials in order that we can produce a fair and valid rating of program quality. We are paying stipends of $25 to $200 for the materials we need (much less than what many institutions are effectively charging).

It certainly appears that NCTQ rates teacher training programs based upon superficial criteria.

In her response to AAU dated February 7, 2011, Kate Walsh makes the following statement:

We believe that the basic aspects of our methodology are quite transparent.

Is it possible to be transparent “in general” but not “in specifics”?

If I speak in generalities but am cryptic regarding specifics, I am not being transparent, am I?

Walsh says a lot in this letter without ever presenting the details of the NCTQ review process.  Not once does she offer a detailed list, or a rubric, or reference a website link outlining the NCTQ review criteria and decision making process.  Walsh writes about “refining a methodology over time,” yet she presents no details. She simply refers AAU to “past reports.”

Next, let us consider this telling admission in the same letter by Walsh:

We also are looking to implement a more transparent process so that anyone can see how we rated an institution.

Wait a minute.  I thought the purpose of NCTQ teacher training program ratings was that “the public has a right to know.” But what exactly does the public have a “right to know” according to NCTQ?

The outcome of the evaluation process. In short, the letter grade.

As of the writing of this 2011 letter, the public did not get information on the details of the ratings process from this “transparent,” “we have no secrets” organization.

Walsh’s very next sentence begins, “After our ratings are released….”  What she is telling AAU is that they do not get to know in this letter, before committing to be reviewed, how they will be rated, but once the letter grade rating has been publicized, a program can challenge it, “using a section of our website as a public forum.”

Walsh’s bizarre justification for the NCTQ “process” continues:

As challenges accumulate, the public will be able to judge their merits, given both the institutions assertions and NCTQ’s response. It will either become clear to the public (and to the institutions as well) that NCTQ is conducting fair and accurate assessments or our credibility will be undermined and our work shut down. We are confident that the former outcome will turn out to be the case. [Emphasis added.]

“As challenges accumulate”??

So, according to this 2011 correspondence, the public does not have access to the NCTQ evaluation criteria prior to letter grade release, but NCTQ deems the public “able to judge the merits” of subsequent challenges?

NCTQ is a corporate reform organization, and corporate reformers avoid fully disclosing themselves though they require it of the nonreformer education institutions with which they deal.

NCTQ is a corporate reform organization, and corporate reformers like to tell the public that they “have a right to know” even though the reformers never fully inform the public from the outset of a situation. In this case, the public does not know the exact criteria by which teacher training programs are being measured.  How then can the public accurately evaluate the meaning of some NCTQ-assigned letter grade?

According to this 2011 correspondence, it cannot.  NCTQ wants to assign the grades and leave the public to “take our word for it.”

NCTQ holds all of the cards in this game of teacher training “transparency.”  They deal the cards as they wish, demanding the training programs to play the game and show their hand when told. They arrogantly insist that the training programs place their forced bets knowing that the deck is stacked. Once the hand is over, if the training programs feel cheated, they can complain, and NCTQ will rearrange the deck and present a constructed justification wholly at the mercy of a whimsical dealer.  Take it or leave it.

Consider excerpts from this second letter, dated February 9, 2011, authored by three universities (in California, New York, and Maryland) unwilling to volunteer access to NCTQ review. The authors express concern regarding “insufficient detail… regarding the data to be collected, the methods for scoring, and the rater attributes” and “validity of conclusions.”  The authors also note, “It is essential that our institutions be able to review all key aspects of the methodology and data collection in advance.”

Regarding NCTQ’s emphasis on forming judgments based upon syllabi, the authors state, “A focus on course syllabi and other program inputs is altogether inappropriate. Analyses are needed that represent the comprehensive types of evidence on program outcomes and impacts collected by programs.”

Finally, the authors address what appears to be NCTQ coercion if a program wishes to withdraw its participation: “Further, we object to the process used when institutions with to withdraw from the study. In the past, when institutions have sought to withdraw, frequently due to sound concerns, NCTQ has refused and indicated that if the institution does not comply, then results would be based on what they are able to find online and elsewhere. This is not an appropriate response.”

The authors close with, “Unless we have assurances by March 15, 2011, indicating that each of our concerns, which are similar to those expressed by all other major universities in the nation are addressed, we will urge all of our campuses not to participate in the survey.”

Though the letter was addressed to Brian Kelly, editor of US News and World Report, it was copied to NCTQ President Kate Walsh.  I would like to offer one statement from her response, dated March 16, 2011 (hmmm.):

…The belief that participation in this process should be optional, if widely shared, reveals a gap between us that will be hard to close.

One thing is clear: NCTQ does not believe in voluntary review.  NCTQ sees itself as entitled to review teacher training programs. It is not asking permission. NCTQ IS Mount Olympus. The arrogance is palpable.

The above letters were from a correspondence dated 2011. On its website, NCTQ now has posted standards, rationales, and indicators; this rating information is dated February 2013. Three notes regarding this information:

1) NCTQ offers no evidence of testing its own standards. NCTQ simply expects training programs and the public to trust what it calls its “well-honed methodology.” And yet, as I demonstrated in my review of the NCTQ advisory board, most members have no experience as classroom teachers. This irony presents serious questions regarding the appropriateness of NCTQ as a qualified organization to rate teacher training programs, period, its conceited, “just trust us” standards aside.

2) From what is posted, the NCTQ ratings process remains “artifact dependent”; that is, it is possible to rate a teacher training program without having a site visit. This idea is supported by NCTQ’s website plea to the public to send in syllabi for programs that refuse to participate:

In order to conduct our evaluation, NCTQ needs basic course materials from these institutions — the same materials students are routinely provided. We are primarily looking for certain course syllabi and materials relating to the student teaching program, such as student teaching handbooks. [Emphasis added.]

There you have it:  The artifact-dependent review.

The NCTQ shallow review “process” is further supported by summary information provided by NCTQ:

Drawing on seven years of research, NCTQ has developed a set of comprehensive standards covering the most important aspects of teacher preparation. These “nuts and bolts” represent the knowledge and skills new teachers need in order to be successful in the classroom. By examining evidence—admissions standards, required course syllabi, textbooks, student teaching policy handbooks, and data showing program outcomes—of what teacher preparation programs are demanding of their teacher candidates, our review will reveal which programs are truly preparing their future teachers for tomorrow’s classrooms. [Emphasis added.]

Notice that no site visit is required for an NCTQ “review.”

3) There is no clear connection between rating indicators and any means of scoring leading to the publicized letter grades. This is very important; by offering the standards, rationales, and indicators, NCTQ offers the illusion of transparency. However, if NCTQ provides no clear connection between such indicators and the letter grades it publicizes, the entire process remains cryptic, with NCTQ holding the power to offer whatever grades it subjectively pleases. By extension, from the time of the writing of the 2011 correspondence above to the inclusion of standards information on the NCTQ website in 2013, both the teacher training programs and the public remain uninformed about the NCTQ ratings process in its entirety.

The 2011 letters include concerns about the superficial nature of NCTQ teacher training program ratings.  As of 2013, ratings remain superficial.  The 2011 letters include concerns regarding a lack of clarity in NCTQ rating criteria. As of 2013, an important connection between NCTQ ratings indicators and actual letter grade calculations is missing from NCTQ’s publicized ratings process information. The 2011 letters include concerns about being able to opt out of the ratings process. The 2013 website offers no such option and instead includes information indicating that nonparticipatory institutions will be pursued and rated without their consent.

In short, NCTQ has not adequately addressed the 2011 concerns of unversity teacher training programs as of this 2013 writing.


I dedicate the final section of this paper to all teacher training programs that have felt violated by NCTQ intrusion.

I am going to grade NCTQ as an organization.  And I am going to do so using the general rules it has contrived for the grading of teacher prep programs.

After all, the public has a right to know.

In NCTQ fashion, I am not going to allow NCTQ to opt out of my review.  I will also not provide any all-inclusive, complete, comprehensive explanation for my review criteria prior to the review.  I will publicize my findings on this blog, and if NCTQ wishes to contest its rating, it may do so by replying to this blog entry. I will review NCTQ’s concerns and publicly offer my decision as to whether or not its rating will change.

I will base my grading of NCTQ chiefly upon the information I have gleaned during the writing of this post.

NCTQ views itself as having the unquestioned right to review teacher training programs. However, NCTQ operates in an arrogance exacerbated by the fact that it is subject to no such review by any other outside organization. For that, I give NCTQ an F.

NCTQ refuses to offer complete– “complete” being the key term here– detailed information regarding program review in advance of a program’s committing to such review.  Furthermore, the public in general is not provided with complete– again, the key word– details of the review, particularly details regarding how NCTQ arrives at its letter grades, though they are expected to trust the letter-grade results of the review as such are broadcast nationally. Like many corporate reformer machines, NCTQ refers often to “transparency”; however, it is a selective, self-serving, incomplete transparency, which is really not transparency at all. For that, I give NCTQ an F.

NCTQ believes that its corporate reform agenda is the mold into which teacher training programs should be forced. Thus, NCTQ enters the program evaluation process laden with bias, including the damaging belief that standardized test scores possess the power to define “quality” education.  For that, I give NCTQ an F.

NCTQ President Kate Walsh knowingly published three op/eds absent the required EDGAR disclaimer. Based upon my reading of the resulting IG report, I believe that Ms. Walsh’s actions constitute an intent to deceive the very public she purports to support.  For that, I give NCTQ an F.

As I have already examined in a previous series of posts, numerous members of the NCTQ advisory board have no background as classroom teachers. For that, I give NCTQ an F.

The NCTQ website includes a link declaring certain institutions as “most secretive” based upon their charging high fees to reproduce and provide NCTQ with documents for review.  Whatever the price, in the end, the institutions listed as “most secretive” do provide the documents.  Given that NCTQ has numerous generous funders, including 8 that donate at the above-$200,000 level, 12 at the 75,000 – $200,000 level, and 17 at the $25,000 – $199,999 level, I believe that paying even $500 per hour for documents is not breaking NCTQ. What is sad, however, is that NCTQ does not bother to consider any other reason why these blacklisted institutions might resist a records request. Instead, it offers the hard-hitting, characteristically top-down method of punitive dealing. It is chiefly due to the insensitive and punitive nature of NCTQ”s blacklisting that I give it yet another F.

NCTQ aligns itself with Jeb Bush’s FEE, a manipulative organization bent on carrying out Bush’s often-ALEC-modeled, corporate reform bidding. Based upon the quesionable exchanges among FEE and Chiefs for Change members in this previously-noted email release, NCTQ has actively and intentionally aligned herself with those willing to engage in questionable practices in order to “ensure reform.”  For that, I give NCTQ an F.

Finally, for the destructive role of an active and chief contributor to a movement that is beating the love of teaching out of those whose hearts are in their profession, those who are well trained yet shackled to test scores, those whose primary focus is opposite that of the privatizer’s drive for the money and not the children, for these things, I wish there were a grade below F to award to NCTQ. Since F is as low as I can go, I once again give NCTQ an F.

This will be a easy grade to average.

The National Council on Teacher Quality.


From → Kate Walsh, NCTQ

  1. Another amazing job! Way to layeth the smacketh downeth!

    Personally, I suspect that the data-collection aspects will be the undoing of NCTQ’s efforts, but one way or another these ninnies need to be resisted at every opportunity.

  2. Teacher Ed permalink

    Great analysis! A quick check of the NCTQ webiste indicates that, in my state, most ed schools which had responded to the 2010 analysis have not been suckered in a second time!

    Yes, just keep defining all aspects of this phony corporate sponsored “reform” movement as what it truly is: it’s a business plan. It has nothing to do with caring about children or their learning. It’s all about money. Thanks for all your diligence!

  3. As with all corporate reform in education, they already know what they are looking for and what they want you to do. They always use the work backwards approach. They “know” what teacher ed programs should look like and what they want you to teach students. They then look at the course syllabus and see if it meets the reform mark. If it doesn’t meet this, it doesn’t pass. It doesn’t matter if it is effective, that’s not important. It only matters that it follows the reform agenda.

    It is the same with the Common Core. They knew what they wanted. They concocted it with no transparency. They didn’t care if your state was effective or if the standards were superior (see Indiana, California or Massachusetts). It only mattered that you adopt their model, at any cost. Cost is the word that often doesn’t get mentioned in their boiler-plate-talking points (fewer, clearer,deeper or the old standards were a mile wide and an inch deep.) The standards and tests are going to be hugely expensive. That’s OK in the reform effort, it’s part of the plan. If a few friends, like Pearson, make a killing on taxpayers’ backs, so be it.

    The reason for this is so simple, yet many miss it. They want a uniform system in which they can measure apples to apples and generate data to form policy. They want this uniform system to justify equal spending per child, equal availability of teachers who are equally trained and measured. They want to measure students who are using equal standards, curriculum and the same equal tests.

    Everyone is in favor of fair and equal but is this the way we get there? I hope not.

  4. jean sanders permalink

    thank you so much for this information; have you reviewed the board member Jim Guthrie yet? I was interested in learning more about his work. Thanks again ; this is important work you are doing.

    • Hi, Jean. Is Guthrie a recent addition to the advisory board? I did the entire advisory board. I planned to move on to the technical board, but I went to Cheifs for Change instead.

  5. You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I
    find this matter to be actually something that I think I would
    never understand. It seems too complex and extremely broad for me.

    I’m looking forward for your next post, I’ll try to get the hang of

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