Our guest blogger is Theodora Chang, Education Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
A new study released yesterday is receiving considerable attention because it provides undergraduates with more information about expected earnings based on major — apparently engineering, computer science or business majors earn as much as 50 percent more than humanities, education, and psychology majors.
Individuals should certainly consider factors other than future earnings when making academic choices, but the bottom line is that they deserve the opportunity to make informed decisions. Unfortunately, the report is also a reminder that similar transparency is sorely lacking in other areas of higher education, especially when it comes to teacher preparation programs.
As NPR recently reported, the U.S. News and World Report and the National Council on Teacher Quality are currently conducting a review of over 1,000 teacher preparation programs across the country to produce a consumer guide for prospective teachers. Programs will be rated by their performance on 17 different standards, covering areas such as admissions selectivity, classroom management training, and graduates’ performance in the classroom.
The problem is that institutions such as the University of Georgia claim that they are doing fine with teacher preparation and do not need to be reviewed by an outside party. This is a curious claim to make when low K-12 student achievement is a significant problem in many of these institutions’ home states. Instead of cooperating with the review, several prominent university leaders are also refusing to share their data. As noted by the dean of the University of Michigan’s education school, this reticence seems counterproductive:
Spending our time fighting about a survey of our syllabi and requirements is a distraction. Claiming over and over that we know what we are doing and that we should control training looks foolish to our critics and, in the face of weak or nonexistent evidence, only discredits our claim to expertise.
There has been a bit of debate over methodology and measurement used in the study, which can be expected with any major data undertaking. However, it is ridiculous for institutions of higher education to blatantly refuse to cooperate with a review intended to increase transparency and spur discussion over better teacher preparation. Teacher candidates deserve to know what they are getting for their money, and their future students deserve to be taught by someone who is well-prepared.