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Accrediting Body Reverses Policy On Disclosure

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The voluntary national accrediting body for teacher education, in a major change in policy, last week voted to make detailed public disclosures of its judgments on teacher-training programs, including those programs that it decides do not meet its published standards.

The policy council of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), meeting in Nashville, also moved to delay until October a final decision on whether or not to adopt controversial "quantifiable" finance standards for the accrediting body, that would, among other things, require education programs to maintain a 12-to-1 student-faculty ratio.

ncate is a nonprofit organization that accredits some 540 colleges and universities that graduate nearly 80 percent of the nation's new teachers each year.

The public-disclosure policy, under development for more than a year, was passed unanimously by the 26-member NCATE governing council.

30-Day Waiting Period

Under the policy, NCATE would inform a school of its accreditation decision and then wait 30 days before sending a detailed account of its findings to the chief state school officer and leading education associations in the school's state.

The report would include information on which of the 24 NCATE standards were not met, the strengths and weaknesses of the education school's programs, the period of time for which a school will be accredited, and a list of the programs approved and disapproved during the current evaluation.

Under the new policy, which is effective immediately, the detailed report will also be available to the public.

NCATE will not make public its evaluation of teacher-training programs that have been denied accreditation if they begin an appeal of the decision within 30 days.

Lyn Gubser, ncate's executive director, described the new public-disclosure policy as an "incredible change" from past practice, under which NCATE did not disclose its accreditation decisions except when asked directly to do so.

He said the policy was adopted to provide "consumer protection" for the public. But he added that is also designed, through the 30-day waiting period, to protect education schools' prerogative to disclose their accreditation standing on their own.

The shift in disclosure policy will likely make negative evaluations by the national accrediting body more damaging to the education schools that submit themselves to ncate's scrutiny.

For that reason, the policy change is likely to be viewed as a bold move by the organization's governing council at a time when NCATE is under considerable fire from many education-school deans who question the utility and the cost of membership in the voluntary accrediting organization.

The proposed "quantifiable" standards have also been attacked by the leaders of many education schools because of the financial burden they would impose.

The NCATE governing board also voted at the Nashville meeting to increase the number of its associate members from eight to 12 and to give them the authority to vote on accreditation decisions.

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