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Former education secretary says grade inflation for aspiring teachers puts future students ‘at risk’

Former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says extreme grade inflation at colleges and universities is leaving education majors unqualified to teach — and placing their students "at risk."

In an open letter released Tuesday, criticized teacher preparedness, saying: "The system we have for training teachers lacks rigor, is out of step with the times, and is given to extreme grade inflation that leaves teachers unprepared and their future students at risk."

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Duncan, who stepped down in December, cited a 2014 report from the National Council on Teacher Quality that found education majors graduate with honors at sharply higher rates when compared to other majors.

The report analyzed 509 colleges and universities — and cited six in Maryland. The report compared the proportion of education majors who graduated with honors to other students.

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Stevenson University gave honors at the highest rate among Maryland schools in the report. Its education majors earned honors 25 percent more often than other majors.

Salisbury University was 12 percent more; the University of Maryland, Baltimore County gave honors at a rate 10 percent more than other majors.

Hood College and Mount St. Mary's University were 6 and 5 percent more, respectively.

Meanwhile, education majors at University of Maryland College Park were less likely to graduate with honors — by 6 percent.

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Duncan said aspiring teachers should be held to higher standards.

"Lowering our expectations not only does a disservice to the teaching candidates in these programs, but also to the students they'll soon teach," he wrote.

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