Teacher recruitment tool will factor in controversial ratings

In an incendiary move guaranteed to divide the education community, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) has partnered with a web-based teacher hiring system that will factor in the Council’s recently released teacher preparation program ratings.

NCTQ’s annual study rated the quality of teacher prep programs, stirring the education reform pot, with many institutions praising the report, while others say NCTQ doesn’t have the experience to rate teacher preparation programs. (Read “Report: Teacher preparation programs an ‘industry of mediocrity.’”)

(Next page: The new teacher recruitment tool)

NCTQ’s ratings report “determines if programs are covering the fundamentals of teacher preparation, from admissions requirements to the quality of the student teaching experience, including preparation in teachers’ content areas, early reading instruction (for elementary teachers), and classroom management,” explained an NCTQ press release.

“NCTQ is not a research organization,” said Diane Ravitch, a historian of education, an educational policy analyst, and a research professor at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development in a recent blog post. “It is not a think tank. It is not a professional organization. It is an advocacy group and few of its board members have ever taught or have any direct knowledge of teaching or teacher preparation.”

The ratings, currently available on both the NCTQ and U.S. News & World Report websites, will be integrated into SearchSoft’s hiring systems, providing HR officials in school districts with detailed information on the quality of training that aspiring elementary and secondary teachers receive at 1,100 colleges and universities across the country.

According to a press release form SearchSoft, the company’s Applicant Tracking System is a recruiting and hiring system employed “thousands of schools across the country. This new partnership will allow HR staff in school to view the program ratings for each job applicant’s undergraduate or graduate teacher prep program. This data set gives principles and other hiring managers an important tool to screen teaching candidates…”

“Every school leader should be equipped to build a dream team,” said Kate Walsh, president of NCTQ in a statement. “When making hiring decisions, it’s imperative that school leaders have every measure of a candidate available—and what kind of training a candidate received is no small measure. Our partnership with U.S. News & World Report ensures that aspiring teachers will have ready access to program quality; this partnership with SearchSoft ensures that school districts also have easy access.”

SearchSoft will release the new functionality in the Fall of this year (2013).

“NCTQ has been a leader in the work to better understand this issue [the quality of teacher preparation programs] in great detail,” explained Mark Strickland, chairman of SearchSoft in a statement. “We are excited to be their partner in delivering this research directly to the people who choose teachers for our nation’s classrooms. We look forward to working with NCTQ to make a lasting contribution to public education.”

Yet, not all are buying into what SearchSoft is selling.

“How noble of the NCTQ to partner up with a privately held, for-profit firm whose market share is on the up and up as more and more Broad Academy and Teach for America (TFA) Alumni run more and more school district administrations,” says Robert Skeels, a public education advocate in a recent post.

“NCTQ’s latest tie-in of their policy advocacy to a profitable business venture reminds us that the ‘K-12 market’ really ‘is the Big Enchilada,’ he concluded.

In response to critics, Walsh told eSchool News that “Neither NCTQ nor the Teacher Prep Review is, or ever will be, a profitable venture.”

“We were able to raise the $4.8 million from philanthropy to accomplish the first edition,” she explained. “Our funders are committed to fully funding the second at $3.4 million and likely the third. At some point, we expect these philanthropic dollars to drop off. In order to keep the work going, we need to identify other possible sources of revenue. The SearchSoft partnership may provide some small source of revenue. Nobody will be making any money from any of these activities; we will simply cover our significant expenses.”

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