NCTQ Recommendations for Improving Teacher Quality Have Little Basis in Research

BOULDER, CO (May 24, 2018) – 2018 State Teacher Policy Best Practices Guide, published by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), purports to offer examples of “leading state work” in 37 policy areas related to teacher quality. Its intent is to hold up these state policies as exemplars for other state policymakers to replicate.

The report was reviewed for NEPC by a team led by Professor Marilyn Cochran-Smith of Boston College, along with three other members of Project TEER (Teacher Education and Education Reform), a group of teacher education scholars and practitioners who have been studying U.S. teacher education in the context of larger reform movements since 2014. The review found multiple flaws that undermine its validity, and it found little research evidence to back up the report’s claims.

One key problem is simply that the report offers no explanation about how the 37 best practices were selected in the first place and no justification for its selection of “leading” policy work. It fails to describe the original development of its nine fundamental goals, nor does it cite any supportive research evidence. It makes no use of (or even reference to) the nuanced and complex research literature in this area. The report assumes reader buy-in to its goals, to its focus on test scores, and to its assumption that “great teachers” have an “outsize impact” on students’ learning and lives.

The report focuses primarily on policies targeting the qualifications and evaluation of the teacher workforce. This ignores the growing consensus that many other factors matter in creating high-quality teaching that enhances students’ learning, including supports that help teachers succeed, school contexts and cultures, state and regional labor markets, teachers’ relationship-building capacities, and the social organization of teachers’ work. 

In the end, the reviewers conclude, the report “lacks both the nuance and the detail required to be useful.”

Find the review, by Marilyn Cochran-Smith, Elizabeth Stringer Keefe, Wen-Chia Chang, and Molly Cummings Carney, at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-teacher-quality

Find 2018 State Teacher Policy Best Practices Guide, written by Elizabeth Ross and Catherine Worth and published by the National Council on Teacher Quality, at:
https://www.nctq.org/dmsView/NCTQ_BestPractices_FINAL_(2)

NEPC Reviews (http://thinktankreview.org) provide the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC Reviews are made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: http://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: https://nepc.colorado.edu