Dispute over records charge keeps JSU off teacher training ratings list
by Madasyn Czebiniak
Star staff writer
Jun 20, 2013 | 5786 views |  0 comments | 190 190 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jacksonville State University’s teacher preparation program, one of the biggest in the state, doesn't have a ranking in the first-ever nationwide survey of teacher preparation programs.

The authors of the study released this week say it’s because the university wanted to charge them $9,800 for data.

“We thought that charge was excessive,” said Arthur McKee, the managing director of teacher preparation studies at the National Council for Teacher Quality.

The council asked 1,100 colleges for information about their teacher preparation programs as part of what the study’s authors say is the first nationwide assessment of teacher training.

John Hammett, dean of the college of education and professional studies at JSU, said school officials didn’t agree with the study’s methodology.

“We didn’t think it was a valid evaluation of our program. They don’t look at the empirical data,” he said.

Checking on teacher training

The council was created in 2000 to increase the number of effective teachers in the nation. Researchers with the council requested syllabi, alumni surveys and outlines of the courses taught in each preparation program from teachers’ colleges across the country so they could see whether prospective teachers were receiving proper training. The council got responses from 608 schools.

The review team was made up of 84 analysts under the supervision of McKee. They rated institutions on four standards: admissions, subject preparation, practice teaching and how well alumni felt the program served their needs.

Chet Linton, the CEO and president of the School Improvement Network, said he thinks the country is at a point where everyone wants things to get better, especially when it comes to education.

“Students need to be prepared for the work environment. They need to collaborate. They need to be able to use technology. But we don’t have teachers who can walk into classrooms and teach students those skills,” he said.

Linton said colleges have the opportunity to implement Common Core training for upcoming teachers so they can hit the ground running when they start working. The implementation of Common Core teaching standards in teaching programs were included in the ratings.

Hammett said the council graded JSU on Common Core math standards that had yet to be implemented.

“We weren’t even doing that yet and they were trying to evaluate us on it,” he said.

The price tag

McKee said most institutions charged around $250 to provide information for the study.

At least two other Alabama institutions asked for four-figure amounts to provide data, the council said. The University of Alabama at Birmingham asked for $4,000. The University of Alabama wanted $3,395.

UAB spokeswoman Dale Turnbough declined to comment Wednesday. Attempts to reach officials of the University of Alabama’s college of education for comment were not immediately successful Wednesday.

Hammett said he was confused by the council’s review of JSU’s education preparation programs because he eventually sent them the information they requested.

Hammett said he originally told the council the information they requested could cost the group up to $10,000.

Both McKee and Hammett said after the council shortened its list of requested documents, Hammett compiled the information on his own and sent it to them for free, he said.

“I sent them six emails full of data,” he said.

But by then it was too late. The deadline for information was mid-January. Hammett sent the information on Jan. 29, said Stephanie Zoz, the council’s manager of data collection said.

JSU in the ratings

JSU did not appear on the council’s overall program rating chart Tuesday because the university originally resisted the council’s request for information. The ratings scale went from zero, the lowest, to four, the highest rating.

Hammett said he believes JSU should have received a four on the rating system, especially because it has been accredited by the Education Department and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.

Attempts Wednesday to reach officials with the state Education Department were unsuccessful.

Zoz said she could not say what rating JSU would have received if it had released its information earlier, only that the information would be added to the review next year.

According to McKee, the council originally had ambitions of rating more than 1,100 programs but were still pleased with the effort’s progress.

“The institutions we have in the review produce 72 percent of the teachers in the nation,” he said.

McKee said he hopes to add JSU’s data to next year’s review. “We’re glad the dean wants to provide the information. We think it’s a happy ending,” he said.

Staff Writer Madasyn Czebiniak: 256-235-3553. On Twitter: @Mczebiniak_Star
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