Ed.-School Group Urges Tougher Accreditation Standards
Education schools that submit themselves to national accredition would have to meet a series of rigorous, quantifiable standards with cut-off scores, including ones that cover student admissions, under a plan that would radically reform and toughen the profession's current accreditation process. The plan is being developed by a committee of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (aacte).
The teacher-training institutions would have to comply with specific standards on such items as student-faculty ratio, faculty workload, and expenditures per student, and also be willing to have this information published in an annual directory that would be made available to high-school counselors.
Chaired by Dale P. Scannell, dean of the school of education at the University of Kansas, the five-member panel was created by the education-school association to find ways of responding to what has become widespread dissatisfaction with the present national accrediting process.
The criticism focuses on the workings of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (ncate), a nonprofit body that accredits about 540 programs that graduate nearly 75 percent of the nation's new teachers each year.
Education schools have complained about the cost and excessive paperwork associated with the visits by ncate accrediting teams. Many of them have also charged that the national accredition process duplicates state accrediting procedures, that many members of the visiting teams are unqualified, and that they learn very little from the review process.
Others contend--as does the panel--that the 26 standards used by ncate to evaluate the schools are in many cases vague, not stringent enough, and frequently arbitrar-ily applied by the visiting teams.
The panel's plan attempts to streamline the accrediting process, making it at once more rigorous and less burdensome for schools. The plan reaffirms the need for and value of the voluntary national accreditation offered by ncate, according to Mr. Scannell, and is, in effect, an attempt to reorganize the way ncate does business.
These are among the specific recommendations that will be made by the ad hoc committee:
Set standards in only six areas: faculty; financial and physical resources; admissions; governance; evaluation of graduates; and the "knowledge base" that would ensure that schools are keeping up with the latest education research and teaching it to their students.
Where possible, make the standards quantifiable--such as the qualifications of the faculty or the student-faculty ratio in the school's student-teaching program. Each school would be required to provide such information annually to ncate, where it would be rated according to set standards. The ratings would then be published in the annual directory, which Mr. Scannell describes as a type of "truth-in-advertising."
Improve the quality of the ncate visiting teams by establishing a "Board of Examiners," made up of 150 to 200 trained people who have a demonstrated ability to evaluate programs well. Members would be drawn from the groups that sponsor ncate--the National Education Association, aacte, and eight other organizations with smaller roles--and would serve three-year terms.
Reduce the cost to schools of accreditation visits by having smaller ncate teams simply "spot-check" the accuracy of the institution's annual entries in the guide and review more closely only items relating to standards that are not quantifiable. The sometimes lengthy "self-study" reports now required of a school in preparation of an ncate visit would be practically abandoned.
Also abandon the current practice of accrediting specific programs within education schools and, instead, accredit entire schools, colleges, and departments of education.
The new plan is scheduled for consideration by the leadership of aacte in November. It could be adopted by ncate's governing body--which is made up of eight nea and eight aacte representatives, and one from each of eight other professional education organizations--as early as next March.
David G. Imig, exective director of aacte, said that the plan stands a good change of being endorsed by the organization's leadership in the coming months.
Lyn Gubser, executive director of ncate, was out of the country and unavailable for comment last week.