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Response to NCTQ's 2014 Teacher Education Report

 | Jun 25, 2014

by Peter Afflerbach, Annemarie Sullivan Palinscar, Virginia Goatley, and P. David Pearson
June 6, 2014


The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) issued its second review of teacher preparation programs June 17. We see little in the 2014 report to change our stance from last year regarding their efforts to assess the quality of teacher education for literacy instruction.

Responses to the 2013 NCTQ Teacher Prep Review raised many questions about flaws in the methodology (AACTE, 2013; NCTE, 2013; Darling-Hammond, 2013). Other than an increase in programs reviewed, including alternative certification programs, the 2014 report shows few, if any, changes of substance that could be viewed as responses to the concerns and critiques raised a year ago. Granted, NCTQ added criteria for behavior management and student teaching, but they did not expand their views of the essential literacy practices that students should possess or teachers should emphasize in their pedagogy.

As an example of just such a missed opportunity, we point to research, much of it accumulated over the last two decades, documenting the importance of intrapersonal aspects of learning, including motivation and engagement (Guthrie, Wigfield, & You, 2012) and self-efficacy (Schunk & Zimmerman, 2008), as they influence the course of literacy development. This research has found, among other factors, that students’ motivation and engagement influence how they use their existing reading strategies and skills, how well they acquire new strategies and skills, and how well they transfer strategies and skills to novel situations.

We also know that students with high self-efficacy increase and sustain their effort to read when challenged, and believe that they will be successful. In contrast, students with low self-efficacy have lower aspirations when reading, and are less likely to begin and persevere with more challenging reading tasks.

Clearly, teacher education programs must address the range of factors that contribute to students’ literacy development and success. Basing the evaluation of teacher preparation programs on only part of what we know about literacy development, as the NCTQ has done, renders any evaluation of teacher incomplete and inaccurate.

As members of IRA’s Literacy Research Panel, we also remain concerned about the broader issues of criteria, standards, and previous research on effective teacher education, as outlined in our 2013 response. For example, the NCTQ Early Reading Standard remains focused on five pillars (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension) from the now dated National Reading Panel Report (NICHD, 2000) to the exclusion of many crucial elements of literacy (e.g., writing, speaking, listening) and teaching (e.g., engagement, discussion, instructional grouping, diversity) that are highlighted in a wide range of research-based documents, including well-established research handbooks (e.g., Kamil, Pearson, Moje, & Afflerbach, 2011), reports of exemplary practices from the What Works Clearinghouse (Graham, et al, 2012; Kamil, et al, 2008; Shanahan, et al), or foundation sponsored syntheses (e.g., Graham & Herbert, 2010). Further, the standards for English Language Learners and Struggling Readers remain at the elementary level only, when there is substantial research to suggest these are critical issues at the secondary level as well. More broadly, the research base on effective teacher education has contributions that could, and should, be recognized in any ongoing efforts for improvement in teacher preparation, including the work of NCTQ.  

The International Reading Association has a long history of efforts to both explore and enhance teacher education efforts specific to the preparation of literacy educators (see 2013 LRP blog for examples), including the IRA Standards for Reading Professionals. Most recently, the IRA Task Force on Teacher Preparation for Literacy Instruction has launched another significant effort to better understand and improve teacher education for literacy.

Among its activities, the Task Force—composed of teacher educators and state department literacy leaders—is identifying the means by which programs of teacher education determine the literacy-related standards to which programs are held responsible across the states. In addition, they plan to canvas literacy leaders for the purpose of identifying programs that are regarded as effective and the criteria used to make such a determination. Finally, the Task Force aspires to contribute to the knowledge base by profiling programs that graduate well-started beginners—novice teachers who know enough about literacy instruction in K–12 to do a credible job as teachers while they acquire even more knowledge and experience on the job. In this way, the Task Force hopes that literacy education programs across the country can benefit from the experiences and learning of other institutions.

On one issue, we completely agree with NCTQ colleagues: when it comes to improving teacher education, for literacy and other disciplines, the stakes are high and the need is great. In the final analysis, our assessment is—as it was more than a year ago—that the NCTQ effort still needs to look at a broader range of scholarship in establishing its standards for evaluating the quality of teacher preparation for teaching literacy.

Finally, we reiterate what we said a year ago—that IRA, with its long history of contributing to research and the improvement of teacher education, looks forward to expanding the conversation with any and all constituencies, including NCTQ, who will approach the task of improving teacher education with high standards for research based practices and a willingness to consider the entire research base on effective pedagogy for students as well as their future teachers.


American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (2013). NCTQ review of nation’s education schools deceives, misinforms public [Press release]. Retrieved from

Darling-Hammond, L. (2013, June 18). Why the NCTQ teacher prep ratings are nonsense. The Washington Post. Retrieved from

Graham, S., Bollinger, A., Booth Olson, C., D’Aoust, C., MacArthur, C., McCutchen, D., & Olinghouse, N. (2012). Teaching elementary school students to be effective writers: A practice guide(NCEE 2012-4058). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from

Graham, S., & Herbert, M. (2010). Writing to read: Evidence for how writing can improve reading. Carnegie Corporation. Retrieved from

Guthrie, J., Wigfield, A., & You, W. (2012). Instructional contexts for engagement and
achievement in reading. In S. L. Christenson, A. L. Reschly & C. Wylie (Eds.),
Handbook of research on student engagement (pp. 601-634). New York: Springer.

Kamil, M. L., Borman, G. D., Dole, J., Kral, C. C., Salinger, T., and Torgesen, J. (2008). Improving adolescent literacy: Effective classroom and intervention practices: A Practice Guide (NCEE #2008-4027). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from

Kamil, M., Pearson, P. D., Moje, E. B., Afflerbach, P (Eds.). (2011), Handbook of reading research, Vol. IV. London: Routledge.
National Council of Teachers of English (2013, June 18). CEE chair response to NCTQ report. Retrieved from

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2000). Report of the National Reading Panel. Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction (NIH Publication No. 00-4769). Retrieved from

Shanahan, T., Callison, K., Carriere, C., Duke, N. K., Pearson, P. D., Schatschneider, C., & Torgesen, J. (2010). Improving reading comprehension in kindergarten through 3rd grade: A practice guide (NCEE 2010-4038). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from    

Schunk, D.H., & Zimmerman, B.J. (2007). Influencing children’s self-efficacy and self regulation of reading and writing through modeling. Reading & Writing Quarterly, 23(1), 7–25.

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