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Accreditation Body Votes Major Shift in Policy

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Washington--The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), in a major shift in policy, last week approved new standards that for the first time would require schools, colleges, and departments of education seeking national accreditation to maintain specific student-faculty ratios and funding levels for their programs.

The governing council of ncate, a non-profit organization that accredits approximately 540 colleges and universities which graduate nearly 80 percent of the nation's new teachers each year, voted to require these institutions to have in their undergraduate programs a ratio of one full-time faculty member to no more than 12 full-time students.

Another new standard would require institutions to demonstrate that funding for education programs "compares favorably" over a three-year period with "comparable" professional-school programs.

According to Richard Wisniewski, dean of the college of education at the University of Oklahoma and a member of the ncate standards committee, these controversial standards, which will go into effect in 18 months if they are not amended after a mandatory six-month public comment period, signal a dramatic change in NCATE policy. They demonstrate, he said, the accrediting organization's willingness to set specific, "quantifiable" requirements for accreditation.

Lyn Gubser, executive director of ncate, said the new standards reverse a policy set forth in 1968, when a committee revised earlier standards explicitly to remove any numerically objective requirements.

"This is a great step forward." said Mr. Wisniewski, who is also chairman of a subcommittee on finance standards. "By quantifying our standards, we make them stronger, and with stronger [NCATE] standards there will be an improvement in the quality of teacher education."

Most of the 24 current NCATE standards are general statements about the quality of various aspects of teacher-training programs. Currently, there is only one quantifiable standard: It requires that one-third of an undergraduate's academic program for a degree in education be in arts and sciences.

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