Letters To The Editor
I read with interest your interview with Lyn Gubser, who recently resigned as the executive director of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (ncate), "No One Wants To 'Pull the Plug' on Teacher-Training Programs" (Education Week, March 23, 1983). I was particularly interested in the following comment by Mr. Gubser:
"The [recent] withdrawal from ncate of the University of Wisconsin at Madison was first and foremost a rebellion against having practitioners on campus."
Unfortunately, this assertion has no basis in fact and is but another product of Mr. Gubser's fertile imagination. Throughout his tenure as executive director, he has continually sought to rationalize away the very real problems of the organization rather than deal with them directly and honestly.
At no time while the decision was being made whether to participate in an ncate review was the fact that it would involve "having practitioners on campus" even mentioned. Indeed, the program review and improvement procedure that is now in place as an alternative to ncate will bring more classroom teachers into our program-review process each year than would be involved once every seven to 10 years using the ncate process. More to the point, however, is the fact that, at our institution, as at most schools of education, classroom teachers are an integral part of our daily activities.
Mr. Gubser's claim that the University of Wisconsin at Madison, or any other school of education that I know of, is opposed to having practitioners on campus is absurd. It is obvious that no teacher-preparation program can or should function without the involvement of classroom teachers.
One does not have to look far to find more plausible reasons for not participating in an ncate review. At a recent meeting of the Association of Schools and Colleges of Education in State Universities and Land Grant Colleges, the national organization representing schools of education in the land-grant and large private universities, a committee report accepted by formal vote of the organization noted the following weaknesses of ncate:
The lack of clarity in goals of national accreditation;
Ambiguity of the ncate standards;
The composition and size of ncate's visiting teams, in general, do not appear reasonable;
Redundancy of various types of evaluation reviews (e.g., state versus national accreditation review);
The cost of ncate is viewed by many as excessive;
Lack of distinction between initial accreditation and re-accreditation;
Procedural problems from initiation of review through results of action taken by the governing council;
Magnitude of the task to be accomplished (tendency to be overwhelmed by numbers);
There is a continuing concern that excellence is ignored and attention is given only to minimums (when they are identified), thus reducing the incentive to strive for high levels of quality;
There appear to be no sanctions imposed on those institutions that do not meet minimum standards imposed by the national accrediting body. Thus, it seems to make little difference whether an institution is nationally accredited or not;
There appears to be little comparative information available that documents the differences between institutions that are accredited versus those that are not, among those that meet minimum standards versus those that exceed minimum standards;
There appears to be undue attention paid to the need to "wine and dine" visiting-team members or to develop a network of political contacts designed to facilitate favorable decisions concerning accreditation;
There are wide differences in the quality and consistency of reports produced by visiting teams;
ncate standards and procedures appear to impose values on institutions that are at variance with institutional values (e.g., in such matters as curriculum offerings and program organization);
Present ncate standards do not appear to emphasize the intellectual aspects of education (standards seem to impose a vocational emphasis versus the goals of a liberal education);
Little effort is made to pre-screen institutions that seek accreditation. There appear to be few prerequisites that institutions must meet in order to consider themselves eligible to be reviewed by ncate;
ncate leadership and quality of staffing are uneven. It appears that staff members do not always have skills to address issues and problems that require resolution.
It is just possible one or more of these weaknesses caused the faculty and administration at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to decide not to associate with ncate
John R. Palmer Dean The School of Education University of Wisconsin-Madison
Your recent interview with Lyn Gubser, "No One Wants To 'Pull the Plug' on Teacher-Training Programs" (Education Week, March 23, 1983), provides a rather one-sided view of some important issues related to accreditation of professional education programs. Several topics that were treated insufficiently or inaccurately require clarification. I would like to present a second view on the erosion of support for the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (ncate) and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (aacte) proposal for a modification of the current process.
Several of the responses to questions posed by your reporter imply that the reduced support for ncate is due to fear that institutional weaknesses will be uncovered through the reliable application of rigorous and valid standards. It is my opinion that quite the opposite is true. Many education deans have despaired at the continued use of standards that are of questionable validity and usefulness, and the meaning of which depends too much on the interpretation of a visiting team. The withdrawal from ncate by some institutions reflects a lack of confidence in a system and grave doubts that the review will be of any value. This is hardly a fear reaction.
One might also infer from Mr. Gubser's comments that the "backlash" is only from state-university/land-grant and large private institutions. Indeed, concerns have been expressed by representatives of many types of institutions. One of the most thoughtful reviews of ncate was prepared in 1980 by the Teacher Education Council of State Colleges and Universities. Readers who are interested in a thorough review of institutional and organizational concerns could refer to the aacte proposal.
Mr. Gubser's comments about the aacte proposal are misleading in several ways. He says that the proposal "equate[s] to size rather than quality" and that the fee schedule would be regressive. His term, "sheer folly," could be applied to these observations.
The aacte proposal includes a section on financial implications. The statement is made that if a flat dues structure were established, the cost for small institutions would be higher than at present. However, no recommendation was made except to note that the Council would have to establish dues and fees at a level to support the process. The last paragraph of the section, "Cost to Institution through Dues," page 39, covers this point.
The reference to eliminating institutions on the basis of size is contrary to actual statements in the proposal. In fact, the proposal acknowledges that institutions unwilling or unable to provide the support needed for high-quality programs would be denied accreditation--regardless of institutional size. I am amazed that Mr. Gubser ignores specific statements to this effect in the proposal.
Mr. Gubser says the aacte proposal ignores the evaluation of program graduates. Yet evaluation is mentioned specifically on page 20 in the standard on students.
Education Week had a reporter covering the sessions at the aacte annual meeting in which the proposal was presented and discussed. The reporter also received a copy of the proposal. I am disappointed that the only coverage given the proposal is in the interview with Mr. Gubser, hardly a thorough and objective report on a propsal that deals with an important and complex process.
Dale P. Scannell Dean School of Education The University of Kansas
Lyn Gubser responds:
I did not say, nor was I quoted as saying, that evaluation of graduates is not included at all in the aacte document. I said that evaluation, as a family of standards, is gone--condensed into a few lines and subsumed under standards relating to students. Evaluation is hardly given the emphasis that assessment of the competencies of graduates now rightfully receives, and I think that is a mistake.
I made reference in my remarks to the education faculty of the University of Wisconsin not wanting practitioners on campus as ncate evaluators. This was chief among those reasons given to me by Dean John R. Palmer in Houston, Tex., on Feb. 19, 1982, in explaining why the Wisconsin faculty had sought permission from the chancellor not to stand for ncate review over Dean Palmer's own recommendations.
Regarding the listing of grievances by the Land-Grant Deans' Association, please note that there was a second list--that of strengths of ncate, which is why the report called for continued support of ncate and was "accepted by formal vote of the organization."
Both Deans Scannell and Palmer are well aware that I have long fought for major improvement and redesign of ncate Dean Scannell was chair of the Council when I was first hired. Dean Palmer served as an aacte representative to ncate in 1979-80. Both of them were able to vote on issues that would improve ncate--a luxury I have never been afforded.
Editor's Note: Correspondent Glen Macnow focused on another aspect of the aacte meeting. For an earlier account of the proposed revision, see Education Week, September 29, 1982.