The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) sees the ranking system as “a divisive tactic that mostly serves to pit institutions against one another,” according to a statement. Sharon P. Robinson, Ed.D., president and CEO of AACTE, said that only 118 of the 1,127 institutions that were reviewed fully participated in the report.

“Even ‘full participation,’ however, resulted in little more than a document review—hardly adequate evidence to judge graduates’ readiness to teach,” said Robinson in the statement.

NCTQ evaluators requested documentation from higher-ed institutions and used open-source material to assess whether institutions offered instruction that fulfills both state and national standards. The organization’s methodology includes an institution’s selection criteria for students, classroom management, lesson planning, student teaching, and evidence of effectiveness, among other criteria.

“Our goal is to ultimately strengthen the field,” said Arthur McKee, managing director of teacher preparation studies. “We want to see teacher preparation programs do well, because if they do well, more teachers will be more effective.”

AACTE proposes a different approach to evaluating teacher prep. The organization collaborated with Stanford University on a project called edTPA, a subject-specific assessment system that applies state and national standards to guide teachers and administrators in developing curriculum and practice for preparing future teachers. Instead of rating or ranking schools, the assessment focuses on having teachers demonstrate what they know. The project’s website became fully operational in 2013, and there are 529 education preparation programs in 34 states and the District of Columbia participating in edTPA, according to its website.

Dana Tofig, director of communications for the Montgomery County School District in Maryland, says the district doesn’t reference teacher prep rankings when evaluating potential hires.

“Rankings have to be considered in light of the formulas they are looking at,” said Tofig. “We do look if they went to a strong teacher prep program, but it isn’t all that we look at.”

He says teacher prep programs are important, but so, too, is the professional development that teachers receive after graduating.

“You want to have teachers who got the necessary preparation in college,” said Tofig. “It is equally important that the school district invests in their professional growth.”

Some teacher prep schools have questioned NCTQ’s methodology. The organization says it remains in contact with the schools that are evaluated and works with them to improve.