- In an open letter to college presidents and deans of education schools, former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said grade inflation and a lack of rigor put ill-prepared teachers in the classroom and future students at risk.
- Citing a 2014 National Council on Teacher Quality report, Duncan said students studying to be teachers at 51 higher education institutions are twice as likely to graduate with honors than their peers in other programs, and across all 500 institutions studied, 44% of education majors graduate with honors, compared to 30% of their peers.
- While Duncan did highlight good examples — Hunter College-CUNY, for example, and the 62 institutions where education majors are less likely to graduate with honors than their peers — he ultimately calls on higher education leaders to raise standards at their schools and take the lead on making change.
Duncan’s letter is yet another example of teacher blaming that made him a number of enemies during his time in the Obama administration. Teachers have been easy scapegoats for the problems in education, particularly because research shows they have a greater impact on students than many other school factors. But external factors like poverty still matter much more. Current Secretary of Education John King has stepped away from that approach, even apologizing to teachers for the department's hand in creating a culture of blame.
Still, teacher preparation programs have been under attack for years and there is a focus now on their role in solving a teacher shortage. The number of students majoring in education is trending downward. Many of the brightest students are opting for careers in higher-paying and better-respected fields. And even as schools are looking for more teachers of color, these students remain underrepresented in training programs across the country.