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Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

CSUB's Walter Stiern Library.

Cal State Bakersfield's School of Social Science and Education is among 34 teacher training programs across the state that don't sufficiently prepare future teachers for the classroom, a new report has concluded.

The majority of teacher preparation programs in the United States are not providing adequate training to aspiring teachers, and a disproportionate number of them are in California, according to a new study by U.S. News & World Report and the National Council on Teacher Quality, a nonprofit educational policy advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.

NCTQ looked at 1,130 colleges and universities that train elementary and secondary teachers and published its findings in the magazine's first ever Teacher Prep Review.

Of the 71 elementary programs evaluated in California, 64 percent -- including CSUB -- earned the lowest rating possible.

The report attributed that to the Ryan Act, a 1970 California law that removed licensing and teacher preparation from the U.S. Department of Education in favor of regulation by a state commission. It doesn't affect secondary programs.

CSUB received zero stars on a scale of no stars to four, four being best.

As a result, the reviewers flagged the university for a "consumer alert" label.

The organization hopes that aspiring teachers and those who make hiring decisions will consider that label as they're making choices, and is working with a software company on a program to make doing that easier. Ideally, ranking programs will pressure universities to strengthen their course offerings and graduation requirements, said NCTQ President Kate Walsh.

It's not that high quality teachers can't come out of "inferior" programs, Walsh said in an interview Tuesday. It's just that those teachers emerge in spite of their training, not because of it.

"It means that the program is not adding value," she said.

Consumer alert elementary programs typically offer little or no math or science instruction, and don't expose education students to decades of scientific research on how children learn to read, Walsh said.

"They treat early literacy strategies as a matter of personal preference, leaving teachers to come up with ideas on their own," she said.

There is a place for academic freedom, Walsh said, but not at the expense of evidence-based research on best practices and outcomes.

Kathleen Knutzen, dean of CSUB's School of Social Science and Education, said she didn't want to waste time on a point-by-point critique of the report's findings.

Suffice it to say that the university has met the standards of several credentialing agencies, she said.

"That report doesn't really, in my opinion, represent the reality of what is happening in our student teacher program, especially in the CSUs," Knutzen said.

The university is working hard to improve teacher quality, and regularly monitors the program to identify strengths and weaknesses, including post-graduation surveys to track long-term outcomes, Knutzen said.

The chancellors of the nation's three largest systems of higher education questioned the methodology of the report, which relies on a paper review of documents such as textbooks and syllabi, not performance data or interaction with faculty, teacher candidates or employers.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson issued a statement insisting that California has some of the strongest teacher preparation standards in the nation.

"It's disappointing that this report applied a one-size-fits-all checklist to California's teacher training programs that failed to accurately reflect the quality of our work," he said. "We're one of the few states to require subject matter competency as a prerequisite for entering a teacher training program. But under this report's criteria, this strength actually lowers California's rating.

"Those who are serious about examining the quality of teacher preparation efforts will have to look elsewhere for more reliable and useful information."

Walsh conceded the review was "only 12 inches deep." Sitting in on college courses for days at a time would have been preferable but was impractical at 1,130 institutions nationwide, she said. But the review's standards are "so truly fundamental" that widespread failure to meet them is a sign of a whole system badly in need of reform, she said.

"If our industry were healthier, this wouldn't have worked," Walsh said.

The review was limited by the refusal of some schools to share data, or even gather information for internal use, Walsh said. In some cases, the NCTQ had to take public schools to court just to get a syllabus.

To the extent it was able, however, the NCTQ examined the selection criteria used for admitting candidates; preparation in specific subject areas such as math, social studies or science; the ability to practice teaching with guidance from a mentor before teaching alone; and evidence of post-graduation outcomes.

CSUB cooperated with reviewers, Knutzen said. And its liberal studies education curriculum includes many subject areas, co-teaching with "master teachers" and training in the new Common Core math and English-language arts standards that California and most other states adopted in 2010, Knutzen said.

"I've never been prouder of what we're doing and the teachers we're putting out in the schools." she said.