A national non-profit with the stated mission of "ensuring that every child has an effective teacher" has issued its second ranking of teacher preparation programs across the nation, and Fort Hays State University is one of only seven institutions nationally to have two programs that achieve Top Rank status.
In an extensive review by the National Council on Teacher Quality, a Fort Hays State program in history and government was the third-highest ranked secondary education program in the nation, and FHSU had the 12th-highest ranked elementary education program nationally out of 2,400 programs assessed.
No other Kansas institution, public or private, earned a Top Rank score.
The rankings were announced by FHSU President Edward H. Hammond in a news conference today.
"This is yet more confirmation of our dedication to quality as well as to low cost," said President Hammond. "In teacher education as in so many other areas, our commitment is not just to access, but access to the highest quality education, both on campus and in our Virtual College. This is especially important in teacher education, because that is training the people into whose care we entrust our children and grandchildren at the very beginning of their educations."
"Teacher Prep Review 2014," issued by the National Council on Teacher Quality, evaluated about 2,400 elementary, secondary and special education programs in 1,127 institutions of higher education. In 836 of those institutions, NCTQ was able to gather enough data to rank at least one program on all "key standards" in three areas: selection (the standard for admission to teaching programs), content preparation and practice teaching.
In the 12-state Midwest Region stretching from Kansas north through North Dakota and east to Ohio and Michigan, Fort Hays State's secondary education program was No. 1, ahead of undergraduate and graduate secondary education programs at Miami University of Ohio at No. 2 and 3, a University of Iowa undergrad secondary program at No. 4 and then two programs at Ohio State at No. 5 and No. 6.
Of the 1,668 individual programs that earned enough points to be ranked in the 2014 Review, only 26 elementary programs and 81 secondary programs earned the NCTQ Top Ranked designation. Only three institutions nationwide had three programs in the top rank, and Fort Hays State was one of only seven that had two. Those 10 institutions were the only colleges and universities that had more than one Top Rank program.
President Hammond explained that the NCTQ rankings are based on points -- the higher the point total, the higher the ranking. Points are given according to how a particular program in a given institution meets a number of standards in the three core areas.
In elementary education, the Council's "key standards" are, in addition to the selection criteria and student teaching components, early reading, elementary mathematics and elementary content. "Booster standards," areas which can add to a program's point total and ranking, are training to teach English language learners and struggling readers, classroom management, and outcomes.
In secondary education, in addition to the selection and student teaching standards, points are awarded on the basis of middle school content and high school content. Booster standards in secondary education are classroom management, secondary teaching methods and outcomes.
"The NCTQ rankings are not based solely on the information given to them by the institution," said President Hammond. "The Council asks the university for information, but it also reaches out to the school districts that partner with teacher education programs and it conducts online searches."
And, he said, "Because the Council has found a surprising amount of resistance in some institutions to the work it is trying to do, the Council has also developed its own contacts with individual people on campuses across the country in order to get the documentation it needs to make its assessments."
President Hammond noted that the particular secondary education program at FHSU cited by NCTQ was the program in history and government. At Fort Hays State, the content requirements for a student preparing for a career teaching in middle school or high school amount to a double major: In this case, a B.S. in secondary education and a B.A. in history.
"Our extensive focus on the content area of a teacher's education is one of the greatest strengths of Fort Hays State," said the president. "It is no surprise to us that, in a ranking system where subject-matter content is one of the pillars of judgment, we do well. Our commitment to quality in all aspects of teacher education tells in our graduates, and now the National Council on Teacher Quality has also recognized it."
The president introduced Dr. Rob Scott, dean of FHSU's College of Education and Technology.
"One thing that is not acceptable here is to just go with the flow and do what everybody else is doing," said Scott. "We have a group of people here who are dedicated to enacting the kind of policies, programs and procedures that are going to train our students to excellence. Other schools will maybe get around to this kind of education in five, six or seven years."
Scott introduced Dr. Adam Holden, chair of the Department of Teacher Education, and Dr. Kim Perez, chair of the Department of History.
Holden, who just completed his first year as chair of the department, credited his predecessor, Dr. Germaine Taggart, and Dean Scott for their work.
"This has resulted in a department that has benefited from a rich tapestry of experience where the very best of traditional teaching philosophies is married with the innovations of modern educational methodologies," he said. "It is this diversity of experience that has been recognized."
He noted that of the institutions with Top Ranked programs, Fort Hays State was one of only 10 that had both an elementary and a secondary program with that ranking. Yet while celebrating the recognition, Holden pointed to the future.
"We are certainly proud of what has been achieved to date, but we remain steadfast in our belief that improvement must be continuous, especially in a field that is as professionally dynamic as education," said Holden. He cited a year-long process of collaborating with professionals across the state and collecting data "to develop a roadmap for change."
"We have started a program-wide redesign that is founded upon the data that we have collected, and that has resulted in more rigorous entrance standards, more depth in the core areas of teaching reading and math, and a concerted effort to focus upon candidate dispositions such as communication skills, the ability to use educational technologies and classroom management," said Holden.
"Over the coming year, we look forward to further developing the critical elements of the program that have led to our success," he said.
Perez, whose department provided the content training for the secondary education program ranked so highly by the NCTQ, addressed not only the extensive depth of the requirements of her department, but the partnership between the academic departments at FHSU and the Department of Teacher Education, "which benefits students because it ensures their preparation in educational theory and practice is strong as well as their preparation in the content that they will teach."
"Our students are also required to take more history content courses than most other teacher education programs in the state," she said. "As a result of our comprehensive curriculum, FHSU history secondary education students are prepared to teach American, European and world history courses in the secondary classroom."
Perez said the department also requires all teacher education majors to take at least 15 hours in political science, more than most other history teaching programs in the state, plus courses in statistics, economics, geography and sociology.
"We believe these subjects will strengthen their understanding of history and their ability to convey this complexity in their classrooms," she said. "All of this content ensures that our students are world ready and classroom ready."
The National Council on Teacher Quality 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, and pursues "a research agenda that has direct and practical implications for policy."
The website is www.nctq.org.
The full NCTQ Teacher Prep Review 2014 is available at www.nctq.org/reports.do.