Must We Standardize Creativity?

Some policy makers, education bureaucrats, and pundits use crisis-laden narratives that the public education system is in collapse and make calls for the overhaul of public education. They send a message about a lack of global competitiveness and impending economic slowdown and often use rankings from international tests as their example of a faltering education system. Their solutions coalesce around programs that seek to standardize, control, and homogenize public education via programs like the Common Core State Standards and national testing under the banners of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).

There seem to be some underlying assumptions with the proposed solutions for perceived low levels of global competitiveness proffered by some policy makers, education bureaucrats, and pundits: 1) International test rankings are worth pursuing; and 2) standardized programs will increase the creativity of students in United States public schools. Colleagues and I have dealt with the first claim in multiple arenas. The second claim is more interesting to me because data exist that raise questions about that assumption.

If Wishes Were Horses: Why NCTQ isn’t Going Anywhere

Historically a comparative footnote in the history of educational reform, teacher education programs are becoming the focus of increased media, political, and public attention. One of the major forces driving the push for teacher preparation reform is the National Council on Teacher Quality, more commonly referred to as NCTQ. According to its website, the NCTQ “advocates for reforms in a broad range of teacher policies at the federal, state and local levels in order to increase the number of effective teachers.” Publicly, the organization is perhaps best known for its rankings of primary and secondary teacher preparation programs published in conjunction with U.S. News and World Report. These rankings have generated a great deal of controversy and criticism among a wide range of educators.  For example, among other issues, Ed Fuller criticized NCTQ’s input-based approach to standards, the lack of a solid research base in which to ground the standards, the standards’ narrow focus, the research methodology, the lack of data produced through NCTQ’ s research, and the poor response rates from its target population. Jack Hassard of Georgia State University went as far as to condemn NCTQ’s ratings as “junk science.” Despite the flaws in its approaches to research and reform, such is the distress that NCTQ has wrought among teacher educators that David Hill, the Division Director of Educator Preparation for the Georgia Professional Standards Commission, repeatedly tried to assure Education Preparation stakeholders at a meeting in September, 2014 that “NCTQ will go away” and that teacher education programs are more than capable of self-reform.