UT rejects participation in ranking study

Allison Harris

Because of a change to the way the U.S. News and World Report evaluates college education programs, UT will not provide information for a national ranking of undergraduate and graduate education programs, said a UTeach co-director.

U.S. News and World Report and the National Council on Teacher Quality announced late last month that they were teaming up for the first time to rate the nation’s undergraduate teacher education programs.

Thirty-seven education deans, presidents and directors sent a letter criticizing the council’s criteria, which they said focused on curriculum over results. Nobody from UT signed the letter, but they shared similar concerns about the new evaluation process, said UTeach co-director Michael Marder.

The letter criticized a plan to automatically fail programs that did not participate in the new review process.

Douglas Palmer, dean of Texas A&M’s College of Education and Human Development signed the letter and said the evaluations will not be valuable for Texas A&M or the general public.

“It’s the opinions of the people who are hiring our students, it is the opinions of the parents, and it is the learning of the students of our teacher graduates — these are the critical evaluation concerns,” he said.

The Council responded by instead deciding to give estimated ratings to schools it could not get enough information for.

“We are not in this to punish education schools that don’t respond,” said council spokeswoman Julie Greenberg. “We want to create the expectation that they owe this information to the public.”

Marder said UT is not planning to provide information to the council because it used inflexible standards to evaluate the UTeach program for training secondary science educators in Jan. 2010.

The state requires secondary science educators to study four different subjects. The University complies through composite certification, in which students take 24 course hours in one area, 12 hours in another field and six hours each in two other fields. Although Greenberg said it gave the University an overall design award, the program was criticized for requiring two biology courses of science teachers.

“They simply had the long list of particular things they were looking for in the program, and they gave a high score if they found them and a low score if they didn’t,” Marder said. “I see no indications that they pay attention to any of the outcomes for the graduates of the program. These are things that everyone preparing teachers cares about.”