Training Our Future Teachers: Easy A’s and What’s Behind Them

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Author(s): The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ)

Published: Nov. 12, 2014

Report Intro/Brief:
Easy A’s is the latest installment of the National Council on Teacher Quality’s Teacher Prep Review, a decade-old initiative examining the quality of the preparation of new teachers in the United States.

With this report, we add to NCTQ’s growing body of work designed to ensure that teacher preparation programs live up to the awesome responsibility they assume, preparing individuals for teaching. We also seek to provide the consumers of teacher preparation programs, both aspiring teachers and school districts, with much-needed information about program quality. Finally, we hope to educate policy makers and the public about the successes and shortcomings in teacher preparation.

Easy A’s looks at two important questions:

  • Are teacher candidates graded too easily, misleading them so they believe they are genuinely ready to teach when this may not be the case?
  • Is teacher preparation coursework rigorous enough, simulating the complex demands of teaching?

Takeaway Findings:
Using evidence from more than 500 higher education institutions that turn out nearly half of the nation’s new teachers each year, we find that in a majority of institutions (58 percent), grading standards for teacher candidates are much lower than for students in other majors on the same campus.

Second, we find a strong link between high grades and a lack of rigorous coursework, with the primary cause being assignments that fail to develop the critical skills and knowledge every new teacher needs.

Prospective teachers are almost half again as likely as students in other majors to graduate with grade-based honors. While 30 percent of all graduating students at the 509 institutions earn honors, 44 percent of teacher candidates receive this distinction — a substantial 14 point differential. Indeed, that average masks a stunningly large differential of 20 points or more at 141 institutions (28 percent)."