Easy A’s in Teacher Prep

Is the disproportionately high GPA of teacher preparation programs a sign of the unusually bright students opting to be teachers, or is it the lax standards of those programs? A comprehensive 4-year study by National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) has found that it is the latter. By reviewing 2010 through 2013 spring-commencement brochures from 509 public and private institutions, NCTQ documented a long-suspected phenomenon:

Teacher-candidates are 50% more likely to graduate with honors than their fellow students in other fields at the same institutions. In a third of these institutions the figure goes as high as 66%!

In reviewing nearly 1,200 courses and some 7,500 different course assignments – not just in teacher preparation, but in areas such as business, nursing, and history – NCTQ identified two basic types of assignments: What NCTQ calls the criterion-deficient assignment tends to cover a broad scope of content, in which students often only have to give their opinions about something. The nature of these assignments makes it more difficult for the instructor to offer expert feedback and also objectively compare the quality of student work in the class. Even though some of these assignments can actually be quite time consuming,

grades often have to be based on little more than turning in the assignment on time.

The criterion-referenced assignment, on the other hand, focuses much more narrowly on demonstrating mastery of a specific knowledge or skill set. The clearly circumscribed nature of these assignments makes it more likely that instructors can provide productive feedback as well as objectively compare the quality of students’ work.

Criterion-deficient assignments are about twice as common in teacher-preparation courses than in any of the other academic disciplines that were examined.

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