April 22, 2011; Source: Journal Sentinel | A Wisconsin group representing education schools says it will block efforts of the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), a nonprofit advocacy group, and U.S. News & World Report, to assess teacher colleges in the state. Katy Heyning, president of the Wisconsin Association of Colleges of Teacher Education, recently sent a letter saying that "our entire membership has decided to stand united and not participate" in the first-ever review of some 1,400 colleges of education that the NCTQ and U.S. News announced last January.

Wisconsin is not the only state resisting the quality assessment effort. According to the Journal Sentinel, university system presidents in New York, Georgia, Oregon, and Kentucky "have expressed misgivings" about the project. Objections range both around the design of the 15-page survey being used to assess the quality of teaching in education schools against 17 standards and what others say is a council agenda that favors alternative-certification teacher education programs.

Although research shows that one of the strongest factors affecting student achievement is the quality of a child's teacher, some, like Francine Tompkins, director of PK-16 initiatives for the University of Wisconsin System, worry that the information the survey collects "might be titillating, but there won't be anything in there that will help the (education school) programs improve."

The resistance in Wisconsin and elsewhere caught the NCTQ by surprise. "It's made us wonder if maybe there's something to this question of whether presidents are looking at colleges of education as cash cows, and maybe they don't want the boat rocked," said Arthur McKee, manager of teacher preparation programs at the NCTQ. "Do they really have all these objections, or are they worried about what we're going to find?"

To get hold of information about publicly supported education schools in those states that won't provide it voluntarily the NCTQ has filed open-record requests. Still, private schools such as Marquette University's College of Education, whose dean says he has no interest in taking part in the survey, can't be compelled to release its records. The disclosure rules only apply to public institutions.—Bruce Trachtenberg