A new ranking of teacher preparatory programs nationwide advises students to avoid education programs at two state universities.
East Central University's undergraduate elementary education program and Northeastern State University's undergraduate special education program were flagged with so-called consumer alerts on the nonprofit National Council on Teacher Quality's Teacher Prep Review.
The report, distributed by U.S. News and World Report, was released Tuesday. The report's consumer alerts indicate students in the flagged programs are unlikely to receive much, if any, effective training from those programs.
Among other factors, the report said the two programs' admissions requirements weren't selective enough to make sure students admitted to the program have the academic talent needed to be quality teachers. The report also said the two schools didn't provide students effective student teaching opportunities.
Northeastern State Provost Bill Rugg said he thinks the Tahlequah-based university's ranking was based on old information. The school began to update its undergraduate special education program in 2011. Those updates will be implemented this fall, he said.
Those updates came after Northeastern completed a self-study before a visit from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, the College of Education's accrediting bureau. During the study, college officials noticed problems with the special education program and began making changes.
The changes amounted to a total overhaul, Rugg said. Officials rewrote the curriculum, placing greater emphasis on the program's student teaching portion. He said he expects the changes will address the report's criticisms.
“It's been totally revamped,” he said.
Brenda Walling, dean of East Central's College of Education and Psychology, disagreed with the report's findings. The university has “a long history of preparing excellent educators,” she said.
“The documents requested in this report do not indicate the quality of the program,” she said. “They analyze documents, not the teaching candidates.”
Few get high marks
Northeastern State and East Central weren't alone. The report decried the state of teacher preparation programs nationwide. No elementary education program in the country received a perfect rating on the council's four-star rating scale. Only one institution — Ohio State University — received a 3½-star rating in elementary education.
At the secondary level, four universities received a four-star rating — Ohio State, South Carolina's Furman University and Vanderbilt University and Lipscomb University, both in Tennessee.
“The results were dismal,” said Kate Walsh, president of the council. “There are many shortfalls in the American system.”
The quality of student teaching programs nationwide was of particular concern, Walsh said. Students in 70 percent of the student teaching programs reviewed got support from program staff and teachers at the schools where they were working, according to the report. Only 7 percent of the student teaching programs nationwide offered their students strong support.
Teachers nationwide cite student teaching as a key experience in their training, Walsh said. Despite that, she said, education programs aren't offering prospective teachers the support they need.
“If a teacher has a good experience, it's generally because they lucked out,” she said. “They happened to get a great mentor.”
Bright spots in state
The report did offer bright spots for Oklahoma. Programs at Oklahoma Baptist University, Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma were listed as highly ranked, earning at least three out of four possible stars.
OSU's undergraduate elementary program and OU's undergraduate secondary program were highlighted in the review's section for bargain teacher preparatory programs.
Although she congratulated the three universities the ranking highlighted, state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi said she was concerned about a lack of high-quality student teaching programs and courses to help prospective teachers deal with students who are struggling with reading.
“We look forward to working with our colleagues in higher education to improve programs that will benefit all of the students in our state,” Barresi said.