Illinois State University College of Education Normal, Illinois Institution Comment Comments submitted by: Deborah J. Curtis, Dean
Illinois State University was founded in 1857 as Illinois’ first public university. For the past 153 years, the College of Education and the Council for Teacher Education at Illinois State have provided leadership in teacher education through the delivery of programs across 41 majors and disciplines. Every one of those programs has met and/or exceeded the rigorous standards of the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), the Specialized Professional Associations (SPA) affiliated with NCATE, and the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association. As a community of professionals here at Illinois State, the preparation of teachers and school leaders for America’s public schools has been our top priority, along with the dissemination of high quality educational research that informs policy and practice. With these points of pride in mind, it is extremely difficult to decide how to provide a meaningful response to such a flawed review of our proud and strong tradition of offering some of the finest educator preparation programs in the country. As a community of scholars at Illinois State University we have read the NCTQ review of programs in other states. NCTQ’s approach to this process falls short of any type of analysis that could be seriously considered as “study” or “research.” A cursory review of syllabi by critics with questionable qualifications, with criteria based upon unknown standards, and developed outside of the purview of reliable and public examination of methodology would never meet requirements for a graduate thesis or dissertation, let alone an introductory graduate research class assignment, on our campus. There are simply no reliable conclusions to be drawn from such an approach to the examination of programs and practice. In this era of scarce resources, it is truly a shame that so many assets have been allocated to this inadequate approach to examining the quality of educator preparation. The students in our public schools deserve a better approach to studying the important questions of best practice in teacher education. If Advance Illinois, the sponsor of this effort in Illinois, and NCTQ are truly serious about helping to improve educator practice, the expenditure of these funds could best be spent on collaboration rather than unjustifiable confrontation. One can only conclude that the main goal of this effort has not been focused on improving our schools and the educators who staff them. For our part, Illinois State University will continue to prepare outstanding educators for the public schools of this state and nation with highly qualified, caring and passionate professionals. We will continue to glean from research in our field about best practice, and we will continue to contribute significant findings from our own research that will continue to inform the field. We welcome participation from mutually serious parties willing to take up the complex work of engaging in high quality research focused on improving student achievement in all of our nation’s schools. As a matter of fact, we look forward to that critical dialogue.