Furman University is among the best universities in the nation for preparing new middle and high school teachers for the classroom, according to a study by the National Council on Teacher Quality.

Selection criteria: require an admission GPA of 3.0 and screen students for admission based on ACT or SAT scores.

Elementary prep: Test prospective elementary teachers on the science of reading, elementary math and use licensing tests that are designed to provide scores for all core subjects.

Secondary prep: require middle and high school teacher candidates to pass tests that ensure proficiency in each subject taught and ensure that secondary general social studies and science teachers have the content knowledge to teach every subject they are certified to teach.

Source: National Council on Teacher Quality.

The Greenville school tied for fifth in the nation with Henderson State University in Arkansas and Miami University of Ohio for its secondary education programs. Western Governors University in Utah ranked first in secondary education out of 430 schools nationwide.

The rankings are part of the council's 2014 Teacher Prep Review. It is the nonprofit's second annual review of undergraduate and graduate teacher preparation programs at colleges and universities across the country.

Council President Kate Walsh said the nation continues to struggle with preparing new teachers for the classroom. The goal with the rankings is to help prospective teachers know where to go to receive the best preparation and training.

"This is intended to be a consumer tool," Walsh said. "We're hoping to drive business away from weak programs and drive business toward strong programs, both for aspiring teachers and school districts."

A total of 11 colleges and universities in South Carolina were ranked on the list for secondary education programs. Clemson University was the next highest ranked school in secondary education at 19. The College of Charleston came in at 32 while the University of South Carolina came in at 43. Charleston Southern University came in last among South Carolina schools for secondary education with a ranking of 406.

South Carolina colleges and universities didn't perform as well in the rankings for elementary education programs. A total of six schools in the state were ranked. The highest ranked South Carolina school was Winthrop University, which tied for 27th with four other schools. The next ranked school was Furman, which came in at 47. Other rankings include Coastal Carolina at 63, the College of Charleston at 125, the University of South Carolina at 285 and North Greenville University at 327. Dallas Baptist University in Texas ranked first in elementary education out of 412 schools.

The rankings for both categories evaluated preparation in classroom management and student teaching. For elementary education the review weighed how well future teachers were prepared to teach reading and elementary math. Secondary education rankings evaluated how well new teachers were prepared for teaching specific content at the middle or high school level.

Frances C. Welch, dean of the School of Education, Health and Human Performance at the College of Charleston, questioned the validity of the council's review. Welch said the rankings are based on a review of each college's course offerings and website descriptions of education programs and don't delve into a more substantive evaluation.

The college's education programs are accredited through the National Council for Accreditation for Teacher Education, now known as the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, which Welch said is a much more rigorous process that includes site visits and an analysis of data.

"While we certainly pay attention to every review that we have, the other reviews we have are much more comprehensive than the National Council on Teacher Quality," she said.

Welch said the college's programs have consistently reached high marks in the accreditation process.

"We are very proud of our teacher education programs," she said.

Jackie B. Hicks, president of the South Carolina Education Association, applauded the review, saying that it helps focus the state's attention on how to better prepare teachers for the classroom.

"I do believe when you have reports like this, we begin this conversation to understand there are some strengths and many weaknesses," said Hicks, who was a teacher for 28 years. "We really need to work together to find out what needs to be done. We want our educator candidates ... to be prepared in the best possible way."

One theme Hicks said she hears from new teachers both in elementary and secondary education is that they are struggling with classroom management to keep order in their classrooms. Hicks said colleges also need to have higher standards in accepting prospective teachers into their education programs.

"We all need to be focused on what it is teachers need to be able to do in the classroom to be effective, and if the preparation in the beginning does not give them what they need to be effective, then we need begin with that program," she said.

Reach Amanda Kerr at 937-5546 or at Twitter.com/PCAmandaKerr.