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U teacher prep program earns an ‘A’

The program gets top marks for its strong training in classroom management and quality clinical practice experiences.

Adapted from a release by the National Council on Teacher Quality.

The University of Utah’s undergraduate elementary teacher preparation program has been named among the top in the country by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), a nonpartisan, not-for-profit research and policy organization, for strong training in classroom management strategies and high-quality clinical practice experiences.

This month NCTQ released its 2020 Teacher Prep Review: Clinical Practice and Classroom Management, which finds encouraging progress in teacher preparation programs’ adoption of evidence-based classroom management strategies that are universally effective, regardless of student age or the subject being taught. For the first time since NCTQ began publishing ratings in the 2013 Teacher Prep Review, half of the nearly 1,000 traditional elementary teacher preparation programs evaluated earn an A or B grade, up nearly 30% from seven years ago.

Fewer advancements have been made nationally in the adoption of quality control metrics of clinical experiences (including student teaching and residencies), particularly in the process for selecting mentor teachers which are managed not only by teacher prep programs but also their partner school districts.

University of Utah’s program stands out as among only 17 elementary programs in the country that earn an A in both clinical practice and classroom management and serves as a model of excellence for others.

The University of Utah and the other top-performing programs are recognized for their strong clinical experience requirements, including calling for candidates to spend ten or more weeks in an experienced teacher’s classroom, with at least four days per week or the equivalent in the classroom each week; screening mentor teachers for mentorship skill and/or instructional effectiveness as measured by student learning, among other skills; and requiring program supervisors to give student teachers written feedback based on observations at least four times during the clinical practice experience.

The evidence for the importance of high-quality clinical experience is undeniable. A National Research Council report said that clinical practice experience is one of three “aspects of preparation that have the highest potential for effects on outcomes for students,” and recent research has found that having a high-quality clinical practice experience can mean a first-year teacher starts out as effective as a typical teacher in her third year.

“This ranking recognizes the exceptional work of our College of Education leaders, faculty and staff, who have created a high-quality undergraduate education program,” said Dan Reed, the University of Utah’s senior vice president for academic affairs. “Their progressive approach to evidence-based, clinical experiences for future teachers have made College of Education graduates highly sought-after educators in our state and beyond.”

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has, at least for this year, reshaped much of what happens in schools, including clinical practice and classroom management training for aspiring teachers. Many states and teacher preparation programs have moved their clinical practice experiences online or abbreviated them, while essential classroom management strategies can’t simply be converted to a remote teaching environment. However, the basic principles of quality clinical practice and classroom management still stand in spite of COVID-19 and are still critical to the success of aspiring teachers in their future careers.

“In previous editions of the Teacher Prep Review, the predominant approach to classroom management instruction by most programs was that establishing classroom rules and planning great lessons will prevent student misbehavior,” observed NCTQ President Kate Walsh. “As any teacher can attest, engaging classes alone are seldom enough. We are heartened by the growing acknowledgment of the many benefits of building new teachers’ skills in these key strategies. And we hope that more programs will follow suit with quality clinical experiences, particularly in placing heavy emphasis on the selection of a mentor teacher.”

Now in its fourth edition, the Teacher Prep Review assigns a team of experts to evaluate teacher preparation programs on their adherence to evidence-based classroom management strategies and their requirements that support quality clinical practice experiences.

Read the full NCTQ summary of findings, see all top-performing programs and dig deeper into the methodology at