Faculty discusses decision to not release syllabi

The National Council for Teacher Quality released a report showing MU’s unwillingness to cooperate with its records request.

A non-profit organization has stated in a national review of teacher preparation programs that the UM System is “not cooperating” with its request for syllabi from the College of Education.

The organization's open-records request stated the UM System is “asserting (its) intellectual property rights.” The system is currently refusing to participate with an inquiry by the organization, the National Council for Teacher Quality.

This report, filed with the objective of ranking more than 1,000 teacher preparation programs in the U.S., became a major talking point in Thursday’s Faculty Council meeting.

Learning, Teaching and Curriculum professor Jim Baumann stated that the NCTQ said they wanted to access the College of Education’s syllabi. He also said the University of Missouri-Kansas City indicated the organization was “trying to buy them from students.”

According to the NCTQ’s website, they are a research and policy group working to ensure that every child has an effective teacher. They also claim to “advocate for reform in a broad range of teacher policies at the federal, state and local levels.”

“We are committed to lending transparency and increasing public awareness about the four sets of institutions that have the greatest impact on teacher quality: states, teacher preparation programs, school districts and teachers’ unions,” the company website states.

Baumann explained that the NCTQ listed all teacher preparation institutions and indicated who has cooperated and who has not. He stressed that many have "succumbed" to the request and MU’s department is "strong enough" that they have "nothing to be embarrassed about."

Plant Sciences professor Craig Roberts affirmed this statement.

“We have nothing to hide,” Roberts said. “But we’re not legally bound to disclose.”

MU Faculty Council chairman Harry Tyrer also took the stance of nondisclosure. He said if someone asked to see a syllabus he would hand it over with no hesitation. But if someone put a gun to his head, Tyrer said, he would be a little bit more hesitant. This sentiment of uncertainty seemed to be mirrored by professors across the room.

Lisa Flores, associate professor of counseling psychology, brought up concerns about how the syllabi would be used. While she was familiar with the non-profit, non-partisan organization, she still had a hard time putting her trust in it.

“I think our college just needs some advice,” Flores said.

As the meeting went on, a series of concerns were brought up around the room. Information surfaced about a possible lawsuit at the UM System level. The council discussed the potential for the rankings to be run in USA Today or the Princeton Review. Concerns were mentioned that “non-cooperating” sounded much worse than if they had said “non-participating.”

In the end, the decision was made to not participate. But Flores, who was unsure all the way through, said she knows that could change.

“Now the decision is not to participate,” Flores said. “But we will need some advice on how to proceed.”

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