CSU Stanislaus gets poor grades in review of teaching programs

mrowland@modbee.comJune 20, 2013 

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JOAN BARNETT LEE / jlee@modbee.com Students are pictured on campus on Monday morning (08-22-11) at Stanislaus State University in Turlock. Today was the first day of school at the campus.

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— California State University, Stanislaus, failed to make the grade in a new nationwide survey of teacher training programs that has been contested in the education community.

The university's graduate programs for elementary and secondary teacher certification received poor marks — a zero and one star out of four, respectively — from the National Council on Teacher Quality, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group.

The NCTQ Teacher Prep Review was released earlier this week in partnership with U.S. News & World Report. More than 1,100 public and private institutions with teacher preparation programs were surveyed.

The elementary education program at CSU, Stanislaus, received the review's lowest grade — zero stars — and a "consumer alert" warning. But it wasn't the only one to fare badly; 64 percent of elementary prep programs in California received the same rating.

The first study of its kind from the NCTQ was greeted with skepticism by many in higher education.

Dave Tonelli, associate vice president for communications and public affairs at CSU, Stanislaus, said its criteria has raised eyebrows.

"We are always introspective to commentary about the program and will certainly take the information to heart," he said. "But the methodology of the survey is suspect and the ripples across not just California but the country about this survey are all about its flawed criteria."

For the report, document data was reviewed including class syllabuses, student-teaching manuals and course textbooks. Other criteria included admission selectivity and classroom management. On-site visits and interviews were not conducted.

Critics contend too much emphasis was put on things such as syllabuses, without concern for real-world results.

"We are very proud of our program," Tonelli said. "Our own measure of how successful our programs have been is the nothing but positive feedback we hear about their performance."

California State University programs across the system had low rankings. No school's program got higher than 2.5 stars (for Long Beach and Northridge), and the vast majority earned one star or lower.

Mike Uhlenkamp, spokesman for the CSU chancellor's office, said the university system stands behind its training programs. More than half of the new teachers in California each year come from a CSU campus.

"I don't think this will have a lot of effects on our programs," he said. "There are a host of reasons we think the rating inaccurate and not a fair judge of our programs."

Those outside the system also have questioned the report. The Washington Post called the study "nonsense," and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education called it "misleading" and "unreliable."

Nationally, few schools got high marks. Only four university programs — Furman University in South Carolina, Lipscomb and Vanderbilt universities in Tennessee and Ohio State University — got four stars. Less than 10 percent of programs received three stars or more.

Kate Walsh, president of the NCTQ, said the report shows there is inadequate teacher training across the board.

"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," she said in a news release about the report. "While we know a lot about how to train teachers, those practices are seldom evident in the vast majority of programs."

Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at mrowland@modbee.com or (209) 578-2284.

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