NORMAL — Illinois State University is strongly disputing the findings of a report released Tuesday that says the school isn’t preparing future teachers as well as it should.
The findings come from a survey of 2,400 teacher preparation programs at nearly 1,200 public and private universities across the country. It was conducted by the National Council of Teacher Quality and released by U.S. News & World Report magazine.
The council, a bipartisan group advocating education reform, contends most colleges that turn out the 200,000 new teachers annually fall below or barely meet acceptable standards.
“We completely disagree with the assessment and the ranking,” said Perry Schoon, ISU’s dean of the College of Education, who is troubled by how the ratings were determined. The university was given a narrow range of questions to answer, and from that the survey authors drew sweeping conclusions, he said.
“We welcome scrutiny; it just has to be credible scrutiny,” he said.
Schoon’s staff is appealing the council’s grade, finding errors in the report and looking to see if there are any helpful resources to be found within it.
The review covers education programs and their admission standards, training and value. The report, which drew immediate criticism from other universities, was designed to be provocative and urges leaders at teacher-training programs to be far more selective about whom they admit and to rethink what skills would-be educators need to be taught.
“Through an exhaustive and unprecedented examination of how these schools operate, the review finds they have become an industry of mediocrity, churning out first-year teachers with classroom management skills and content knowledge inadequate to thrive in classrooms” with an ever-increasing diversity of ethnic and socioeconomic students, the report’s authors wrote.
ISU received only 1½ stars out of four for its undergraduate program for future elementary school teachers, and only one of four stars in training undergraduate secondary teachers.
ISU staff and students contacting Schoon today were “astounded and upset” by the results, Schoon said.
“I’m quite surprised,” said Bloomington District 87 Superintendent Barry Reilly, who holds his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from ISU. He estimates that more than half his district’s teachers were educated at the nearby university.
District 87 has its own screening process to find teachers. When asked if this report would affect his hiring of teachers from ISU, he said “absolutely not.”
McLean County Unit 5 Superintendent Gary Niehaus said the Normal-based district also has a thorough screening process which includes a half-hour, on-camera interview for candidates.
“We’re hiring some of our best candidates” ever in recent years, and some are from ISU, said Niehaus.
ISU, which graduates about 1,000 teachers a year, recently ranked in the top 100 in U.S. News & World Report’s best graduate schools. Schoon said that report came from U.S. News & World Report’s own staff and included follow-up questions, but this report was outsourced to the National Council of Teacher Quality, which “has its own agenda.”
The NCTQ says its Teacher Prep Review follows well-documented methodology to ensure reliable data.
The report isn’t going to change the relationship Stanford-based Olympia school district has with ISU, said Superintendent Brad Hutchison. “I can only go from what I know. Our candidates from ISU are very good,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.