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Education Schools To Meet on Quality

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Responding to what they perceive as growing public disillusionment with their profession, 19 deans from some of the nation's leading schools of education are meeting in Wisconsin this week to consider forming a new organization to promote higher standards in the field.

A key purpose of the Oct. 11-13 conference, according to the preliminary agenda, is to improve the education of teachers by creating an organization of institutions "that will obligate themselves to standards and practices which promote excellence."

Until now, the organization that has dominated standard-setting in the field is the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (ncate), which evaluates colleges of education throughout the country and accredits about 530 of them each year. (Although ncate accreditation is optional, more than 80 percent of graduating teachers come from ncate-approved schools, said a spokesman for the council.)

But some educators now believe a change in the standard-setting system may be needed. "Accreditation, by definition, is concerned only with preserving minimal standards," said Robert Koff, dean of the school of education at the State University of New York at Albany and one of the three deans who organized the Wisconsin conference.

"What we're concerned with is excellence," Mr. Koff said. "No education-school group has actually sat down and tried to ask: 'What should we do to promote excellence?"' Mr. Koff said the organizers of the conference were also concerned that the public seems to view all education colleges as mediocre. "We need to tell the public that there are people doing a first-rate job," he said.

The idea for the conference arose from a task force appointed by the Association of Colleges and Schools of Education in State Universities and Land Grant Colleges and Affiliated Private Universities, said Mr. Koff, who was a member of that panel. The task force was asked to review the accreditation system and, in particular, the role of ncate, he said.

The group concluded that support for ncate should continue but that new ways to strengthen the educa-tion schools should be explored, according to Mr. Koff. Judith E. Lanier, dean of Michigan State University's college of education, and John Palmer, dean of the University of Wisconsin's education school, who were also members of the task force, joined Mr. Koff in initiating the conference, which will be held this week in Racine, Wis., under the sponsorship of the Johnson Foundation.

Conference Participants

In a letter to those invited to participate in the conference, the three deans said they had included schools that have a regular, rather than an acting, dean; that have demonstrated a commitment to research as well as to teacher training; and that are respected on their own campuses.

Institutions that were invited to send representatives include the schools of education at the University of California at Berkeley, the University of California at Los Angeles, the University of California at Santa Barbara, the University of Chicago, Columbia University, Harvard University, the University of Illinois, Indiana University, the University of Iowa, Michigan State University, the University of Minnesota, North Carolina State University, Stanford University, the State University of New York at Albany, Syracuse University, the University of Texas at Austin, Vanderbilt University, the University of Washington, and the University of Wisconsin.

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