Teachers need to be at their best, so they can bring the best out in their students. But most teacher preparation programs don't equip new educators with the tools they need to make that happen, experts say.
"At virtually every school I go to, I ask teachers, were they prepared when they entered that school or entered the profession," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told reporters in April. "Sadly, it's often a majority of teachers that say they weren't prepared."
Duncan and his department have marching orders from President Obama to devise a plan to overhaul teacher training programs. Some education programs could benefit from a reboot more than others.
[Find out how new standards are pushing education schools to raise the admissions bar.]
The 2014 NCTQ Teacher Prep Rankings, released today by U.S. News, outline which bachelor's and master's education programs are building the best teachers, and which need to step up their game. Programs training future elementary school teachers often differ from those preparing educators to teach in high school, so these programs were ranked separately.
Different from the Best Education Schools rankings produced annually by U.S. News – which uses a detailed methodology that only examines doctoral programs and the research output of graduate education schools – the Teacher Prep Rankings are part of the National Council on Teaching Quality's more extensive Teacher Prep Review.
The second annual report by the nonprofit educational research and advocacy group evaluates the quality of bachelor's and master's degree tracks required to enter the teaching profession in most states. This year's edition evaluated data on 2,400 teacher preparation programs at 1,127 schools. Of those programs, 1,612 that focus on elementary and secondary education were ranked by NCTQ using key standards it designated.
[Get answers to FAQs on the teacher prep rankings.]
For undergraduate and graduate programs training elementary school teachers, those standards included admissions criteria, student teaching standards and curricula such as early reading and elementary math.
In the rankings of undergraduate and graduate programs training secondary school teachers, high school curricula, and middle school content when applicable, were considered, in addition to admissions selectivity and student teaching.
NCTQ used course requirements, syllabi, employer surveys and detailed student-teaching contracts, among other documents, to score undergraduate and graduate teaching preparation programs on each of these standards. It then assigned an overall program score, with numerical ranks of top programs published for the first time.
[Learn more about the NCTQ Teacher Prep Rankings methodology.]
Among schools training elementary teachers, two Texas institutions – Dallas Baptist University and Texas A&M University – ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, for their bachelor's programs. The pair from the Lone Star State was followed by two Ohio universities. Ohio State University's graduate elementary education program ranked third, and the University of Dayton's undergraduate program tied for fourth with Northwestern State University of Louisiana's bachelor's program.
For budding secondary school teachers, the undergraduate program at Western Governors University, an online institution based in Utah, was the highest-ranked prep program, followed by the bachelor's program at Tennessee's Lipscomb University in second. The undergraduate program at Fort Hays State University in Kansas ranked third, while the graduate program at the College of William and Mary in Virginia claimed the No. 4 spot.
A handful of universities earned ranks for training both secondary and elementary school teachers, including Ohio State University's graduate programs and Miami University—Oxford's undergraduate programs at both levels. Lipscomb University, Western Governors University and CUNY—Hunter College in New York were also recognized for both elementary and high school teacher prep.