Two Md. teacher prep programs ranked among best in nation

Two of Maryland's teacher preparation programs were ranked among the best in the country in the second annual report released today by a national research advocacy group.

The National Council on Teacher Quality ranked McDaniel College 19th best in the country in preparing teachers for elementary grades; the Johns Hopkins University came in 22nd.

"We are delighted to hear that NCTQ has ranked McDaniel's undergraduate elementary education program among the best in the nation," said Cheryl Knauer, director of media relations for the college. "McDaniel always welcomes feedback of our education programs, and we look at multiple sources of data to evaluate our programs."

The council ranked 836 institutions and more than 1,000 undergraduate and graduate programs at those institutions of higher education. It has been critical of teacher preparation around the nation, calling it "an industry of mediocrity."

Towson University, which produces 600 teachers a year for Maryland public schools, was ranked 71st in elementary education. Its secondary program was not ranked because of insufficient data.

Colleges and universities have been highly critical of the NCTQ and its rankings. Raymond P. Lorion, Towson's dean of the College of Education, said: "They are a self-appointed review group that doesn't operate like any national accrediting body in the country."

He was critical of the fact that the NCTQ bases its evaluation on paperwork and not site visits, saying that the council won't tell Towson who reviewed the institution or what the standards are for the evaluation.

NCTQ President Kate Walsh, a former Maryland State Board of Education member, said, "All of our standards, how they are scored and who scores them is posted publicly on our website. It is not kept from the institutions."

Lorion said the NCTQ suggests the university require students to have more than a 2.75 grade-point average to enter the teacher prep programs, but he said doing so could reduce the number of minority candidates and those who are interested in the science and math fields.

Walsh said she believes "Maryland has much to be proud of" in the new report. Some 17 states and the District of Columbia have no colleges or universities that are ranked in the top half, she said.

Across the nation, the teacher preparation programs were far stronger in producing elementary teachers than secondary teachers, according to the report, and that was also true in Maryland.

Besides McDaniel and Hopkins, Salisbury University was ranked 34th, and the University of Maryland, College Park 60th in elementary preparation. College Park received the highest ranking in the state for secondary preparation, at 113th. Goucher College was 127th and Morgan State University was 157th.

Among the 29 Maryland programs that were fully evaluated, 12 elementary and six secondary programs were good enough to receive a national ranking. Eleven programs did not receive a numeric rank because they were in the bottom half.

In addition, no programs in Maryland were identified as offering a top-level teaching experience, but the NCQT said only 5 percent of programs nationally qualify under its criteria.

The Washington, D.C.-based council has called for significant reforms, including raising the academic bar for those who are allowed into the programs. Rhode Island, for instance, adopted new standards requiring that each class must score in the top half of college entrance exams.

Walsh believes better teacher preparation is one of the keys to improving kindergarten-through-12th-grade education in the nation. "This is how you improve education," she said, adding that she believes her organization's report has helped to bring attention to the issue in the past two years.

"I hear from deans and provosts and college presidents that there are some tough conversations about what they need to do differently," she said.

An earlier version of this article gave incorrect information about Towson University's minimum grade-point average to enter the teaching program. In addition, its secondary education program was not ranked by the council. The Baltimore Sun regrets the errors.

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