University Community Rallies in the Wake of NCTQ Report

We’ve been touched by the responses that we’ve received regarding our rebuttal of the NCTQ’s June report and wanted to share them with you. The first selection is an Op-Ed piece that one of our former education professors submitted to the Philadelphia Inquirer (which has yet to be published). Beyond that piece, we’ve selected other comments of support to share with you all. 


Recently, Philadelphia’s Holy Family University, and in particular the School of Education, received negative publicity based on the National Council of Teacher Quality (NCTQ) study of teacher preparation programs in the United States. As a professor, now retired, who served proudly as a member of the faculty in the School of Education at Holy Family for 19 years, I was shocked when I read about their findings, especially in light of recent research of my own involving former students who now work as educators in area schools. My research directly contradicts NCTQ’s conclusions about the quality of preparation in Holy Family’s preservice teaching programs. 

Last October, my former students received a letter from me asking if I could come and visit with them in their schools. Always curious about what kind of teachers or administrators my students had become, I wanted to see them in action and to interview them afterwards. I knew from my years as a member of the faculty that we set clear goals for our preservice teachers, based on rigorous Pennsylvania Department of Education standards and the Mission of the University. Goals included preparing teachers to meet the challenges of diverse classrooms, engage children as active learners, and work collaboratively with colleagues and administrators. My research purpose was clear: to see how well we had prepared our students to become educators. 

From October to June of this year, I observed and interviewed a number of Holy Family graduates. Although self-selected, participants were a representative sample of graduates from the School of Education. Today, some of the graduates are teachers; some are principals; and some hold supervisory or specialist positions. All are highly competent professionals demonstrating that the School of Education was successful in meeting our goals and preparing students to become educators. Meet five Holy Family University graduates: 

Shawn McGuigan, MEd, Class of ’97, is the Principal of Samuel Fels High School in Philadelphia. When Shawn took over as Principal, Fels H.S. ranked on the Philadelphia School District’s persistently dangerous list for nine years. One of his School Deans described him as a “hands-on administrator.” Working collaboratively with his assistants and the faculty, Shawn’s tough but fair approach soon paid off and Fels H.S. was removed from the list after his first year as Principal. Asked if he would change anything about Holy Family’s School of Education and the way he was trained to be a teacher, Shawn replied, “Nothing. Having strong, supportive teachers made the difference…the hands-on, project-based curriculum did a lot to prepare us.” Shawn is currently completing his first year as a doctoral candidate in Educational Leadership at Arcadia University. 

Candice Wells Sasaki, MEd, Class of ’04, teaches 2nd grade at Captain James Lawrence Elementary School in Burlington City, NJ. During the lesson I observed, Candice prepared the children for Readers’ Theater, a literacy strategy that builds speaking and listening skills during the retelling of a story. She described her style of teaching as “hands-on and student-centered with lots of movement” for the children and “strong classroom management” on her part. Evidence of Candice’s commitment to effective teaching is her work towards National Board Certification. This advanced teaching credential is an honor awarded after a rigorous, peer-reviewed process that demonstrates a teacher’s skills in advancing student achievement. From what I saw, I have no doubt that Candice will earn National Board Certification. 

Elena Manning, MEd, Class of ’99, is completing her first year as Principal of Yardville Elementary School in Hamilton, NJ. Previously, Elena taught 4th and 5th grades and was named Teacher of the Year for the Hamilton School District. She also served as a Middle School Math and Technology Coach and as a Data Coach. Asked to describe her style of administration, Elena calls herself a “servant leader.” Her job is to be in the classrooms every day, observing the children on task and engaged in learning. Whether she is fixing a projector or sharing instructional websites, Elena provides the teachers with the tools necessary for effective instruction. 

Gary Stevens, BA, Class of ’04, has taught 5th grade social studies and science at St. Jerome Elementary School in Philadelphia for nine years. Asked to recall the teaching styles of faculty in the School of Education, Gary described us as having engaged students in hands-on, interactive learning infused with technology. In the lesson I observed, Gary did just that with his students. He used an interactive game on the SMART board to review students’ mapping skills. 

Catherine Newsham, EdD, Class of ’97, owned, operated, and taught in her own day care facility while attending Holy Family. After graduation, she became a teacher for the Bristol Township School District for 12 years. Catherine now serves as the Supervisor of Special Education K-5 for the Centennial School District in Warminster, PA. Asked to describe her style of administration, Catherine says she is flexible and team-based, adding that, “The best education I had was at Holy Family University…the course work and content was spot on.” 

These former students and others I interviewed are all proud to be graduates of Holy Family University. I am proud of the work we did as the faculty in the School of Education to prepare them to be dedicated, effective professionals. NCTQ has got it all wrong. Just ask the administrators and colleagues who work collaboratively with Holy Family’s graduates in hundreds of area schools every day. 

Phyllis Wolf Gallagher, EdD Professor of Elementary and Early Childhood Education (retired 2010) 


I am glad to read your response to all who would denigrate Holy Family University. Since my graduation from Holy Family College (which it was back then in '85) and as a Guidance Counselor (now retired) at Nazareth Academy High School, I have always pronounced Holy Family a "jewel box" of sound education here in the Northeast. My grandson, Joe Smith, recently graduated from your education program and has a full time job teaching Math at a local Catholic Elementary School. I attended another University for my graduate degree, and it could not hold a candle to the education I received at Holy Family. I support Holy Family University. I am proud to have graduated from there. 

Fondly, Annemarie Jannotta '85 

Thank you for your thoughtful and thorough response to this inaccurate report that lacks credibility and clarity. I, too, have been reading the press along with professional organizations' responses from across the country. Further, I reviewed their website and downloaded and read the report and found it lacking in these areas as well. 

Sincerely, Kathy Quinn, Professor, Holy Family University School of Education 

It is clear that since Holy Family University did not take part in their study, and the research institution will not disclose the reasons for their findings, this is a clear case of a research project that is flawed and biased. It becomes obvious that Holy Family should be proud not to participate in such a spurious study. Imagine if our court system operated in such a manner. 

Vincent J. Catanzaro 

As you know we work with the education department and have found our students to be knowledgeable, well prepared, and in most cases of exceptional quality. 

Thank You, Mary G. Becker, Director, Alpha House Nursery and Kindergarten 

Since I have participated in nineteen Pennsylvania Department of Education program reviews, I was able to compare HFU with the other universities and was pleased how we fared in the comparisons. Also, Lynn Orlando had us as guest speakers for her classes to enrich their classroom experience with in-service personnel who shared experiences as teacher, counselor, and principal. HFU has always seemed to be on the cutting edge of the profession to provide the very best knowledge for their students. We applaud you!!! 

Teneor votis, Lorraine Yanno Murdocca '58 

I heard about this report and felt offended as an education graduate of Holy Family. I taught in the School District of Philadelphia for over 30 years before I retired, always maintaining excellent observations and reviews. In addition, I also received an award for excellent teaching from the region in 2005. I hope that this perception is corrected as I feel that Holy Family does an excellent job in preparing teachers. 

Sincerely, Susan Handis 

My honest opinion is that anyone who knows Holy Family will not be influenced by the assertions of the report. I experienced and still believe that HF had the highest standards possible for teaching and for training of new teachers. This was true in 1965 when I enrolled and is still true today. I often look back with gratitude at having been taught by exemplary professors who changed my life by opening my mind to many wonders. I have and will always have complete faith in the capability of HF. 

Sincerely, Margaret Mattson PhD, HFU Class of 1969 

Delighted to see you fighting back! Great response! 

Rosanne Hoskins 

Thank you for your report! 

Sincerely, Jan Cook, Doctoral Student, Educational Leadership program, Holy Family University