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National Council on Teacher Quality: Ed majors have it too easy

Craig Clough | November 12, 2014

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(Credit: National Council on Teacher Quality)

College students who major in education find an easier path to high grades and graduation compared with their peers with other majors, according to a new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ).

The report, “Easy A’s and What’s Behind Them,” studied graduation data from 500 higher education institutions and found that 44 percent of teacher candidates earn academic honors compared with only 30 percent of all students. This results in new teachers who are woefully unprepared for what is, in fact, a difficult job, the report says.

“Teaching is one of the most difficult and demanding jobs there is,” Kate Walsh, president of NCTQ, said in a press release. “Yet for reasons that are hard to fathom, it appears to be one of the easiest majors both to get into and then to complete. Our findings are provocative and disturbing, helping to explain why most new teachers are overwhelmed when they walk into the classroom. The situation is not fair to the kids who get assigned to new teachers, nor is it right to shortchange the teachers themselves — who through no fault of their own are not sufficiently prepared.”

NCTQ’s report also analyzed why teacher training is easier than other majors and found that many courses offered by schools rely on too many “criterion deficient” courses, vs. courses deemed “criterion-referenced.”

“Criterion-deficient assignments, although they may be based in knowledge or skills, cover a broader scope of content, often with an emphasis on student opinion,” the report says. “The expansive content of these assignments makes it more difficult for the instructor, no matter what the subject matter of the course, to offer expert, critical feedback, and to compare the quality of students’ work products.”

The solution to the problem, the report concludes, is to “shift the balance of assignments from criterion-deficient to criterion-referenced and to award honors to only a limited percentile of top-performing candidates.”

The report is certain to add fuel to the fire in the ongoing debate in California and elsewhere over how to measure teacher quality and the effort or resistance of some government bodies to tie teacher evaluations to standardized test scores.

These issues most recently received national attention with the controversy over Time magazine’s cover story profiling the deep-pocketed supporters of the reform movement that looks to make it easier to fire underperforming teachers.

The full NCTQ report is available here.

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