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NCATE Urges Tough New Standards for Education Schools

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Washington--Colleges of education will be required to adopt strict admissions and exit standards for prospective teachers in order to comply with a new policy statement that is headed for adoption by the dominant national accrediting organization for education schools.

Under the final version of a policy statement ncate officials have been working on since last October, students who enter programs accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education will be required to have a 2.5 college grade-point average and to take a standardized basic-skills test.

First Concrete Standards

In addition to the admissions standards, ncate's new policy, or "redesign," will require accredited teacher-training programs to ensure the competence of prospective teachers prior to graduation by using various methods of evaluation; to follow their students through at least one year of postgraduate teaching; and to provide quantitative indicators of the quality of the instruction students receive.

Although the group stopped short of requiring colleges to meet a minimum funding formula, as some members of the organization suggested last fall, this policy statement represents the first time in the 31-year history of ncate that members of the group have agreed to set such "concrete" standards, according to Richard Kunkel, executive director of the organization.

"This is going to have a direct impact on improving the quality of teachers," he said.

The voting body of ncate, which includes members of 10 organizations representing state departments of education, institutions of teacher education, the teaching profession, and state accrediting agencies, is scheduled to vote on the new policy in June and is expected to pass the redesign "in one motion," according to Mr. Kunkel.

"It's a heavily consensual document," he said.

Following the vote, the redesign will be instituted for an 21-month trial period that is required under ncate bylaws for any change in policy. Barring widespread disapproval, Mr. Kunkel said, the new standards will then become the formal policy of the council.

The voting body of ncate will consider at its June meeting a proposal to begin requiring colleges of education to comply with the new standards in 1988.

Reform Effort

The ncate redesign is the product of a two-year effort to reform ncate that resulted from external criticism and internal wrangling over accreditation standards and procedures.

ncate policies have been attacked in recent years by members of the organization and other higher-education groups as arbitrary, inconsistent, and redundant. During the past three years, several colleges of education have withdrawn from ncate, and others threatened to withdraw if reforms were not enacted. (See Education Week, Oct. 24, 1984.)

The organization comprises and is supported by 10 constitutent members. It is one of the largest specialized accrediting agencies in American higher education, accrediting approximately 550 institutions. ncate officials estimate that more than 80 percent of American teachers and school-support personnel graduate from programs accredited by ncate.

Controversial Standards

One of the most controversial standards outlined in the redesign, according to Mr. Kunkel, is the requirement that students have a 2.5 college grade-point average.

"There was some concern," he said, "that students attending the very best colleges would be at a disadvantage."

The decision to require admissions testing also generated debate, Mr. Kunkel said. Such tests were only recommended in the first draft of the policy.

Exhibit Depth and Breadth

"Students admitted to professional-education programs must be proficient in communication and other basic skills and exhibit appropriate depth and breadth in the liberal arts," states the final draft of the ncate redesign.

Accordingly, ncate will require colleges of education to develop a system of admitting students that includes standardized proficiency tests in the basic skills; faculty recommendations; biographical information; and successful completion of college or university coursework, with a grade-point average of at least 2.5 on a 4.0-point scale.

Monitoring Required

In order to gain or retain ncate accreditation, schools of education also will be required to monitor their students' progress throughout the training program and provide remediation along the way, if necessary.

"[The institution] must have systematic monitoring procedures and a timeline for determining education students' success in the content field, professional education, and clinical and field experiences," according to the new policy statement.

In addition, the school must "assess the academic and professional competence of education students prior to issuing or recommending certification.

"Multiple evaluation methods (such as standardized tests, course grades, and performance in classroom or school settings) are to be used to determine the academic and professional competence of educa6tion students prior to completion of the program."

ncate also will require colleges to maintain a relationship with their students after graduation, including "assistance to first-year teachers and others beginning new professional roles."

Faculty Requirements

In addition to establishing measurable standards for students, the new policy statement sets standards for the college faculty.

For example, advanced programs leading to a doctorate must have at least three full-time faculty members who have earned a doctorate in the specialty for which the degree is offered.

The teaching load of undergrad-uate faculty members would be limited to 12 semester-hours and that of graduate faculty members to nine semester-hours.

Role of States

Another important element in the redesign, according to ncate officials, is a change in the group's governing structure to provide a greater role for state accrediting agencies.

If the redesign is approved in June, ncate will establish a "State Recognition Board" to validate state accreditation programs that are deemed to be of high quality.

"The accreditation process, now done by ncate and the states separately, could, in many cases, be done jointly, relieving the institutions financially and administratively,"el15lstates a recent memorandum to ncate members from Robert L. Saunders, chairman of the ncate coordinating board.

Impact on Colleges

According to Mr. Kunkel, it is unknown how much it will cost colleges to meet the new standards and whether all of the colleges currently accredited will be able to comply with the standards. He added, however, that ncate officials expect some colleges to be excluded under the new standards.

"ncate ought to be the family of the profession," he said. "It is our responsibility to set the standards, and if we believe in them, then that is what the profession is and will be."

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