NCATE Plan Praised, But Some CriticizeIts Cost, Standards
Deans of education schools said last week that the impact of tough new standards headed for adoption by the dominant national accrediting organization for teacher-training programs would amount to "business as usual" at their institutions.
But they also said the proposed standards, if adopted, will have a dramatic impact on improving the quality of teacher preparation nationwide.
Others said they object to some of the proposed standards and criticized the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education for "trying to move too fast." They called the proposed ncate standards "unrealistically" high, expensive, and short-sighted in light of the impending teacher shortage.
"We need a whole lot more time to look at some of the changes that are being proposed," said Edell M. Hearn, dean of the College of Education at Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville. "Many of them may be very good, but several give us very great concern," he said.
Under the ncate proposal, or "redesign," students who enter programs accredited by ncate will be required to have a 2.5 college grade-point average and to take a standardized basic-skills test.
In addition to the admissions standards, the proposal requires accredited teacher-training programs to assess the competency of prospective teachers prior to graduation through a variety of evaluation methods; to follow their students through at least one year of postgraduate teaching; and to provide "quantitative information" on the quality of instruction students receive. (See Education Week, April 17, 1985.)
The voting body of ncate, which comprises representatives from 10 professional organizations, such as the National Education Association and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, is scheduled to vote on the new policy in June and is expected to pass the redesign "in one motion," according to Richard Kunkel, executive director of ncate.
Following the vote, the redesign will be instituted for a 21-month trial period that is required under ncate bylaws for a change in policy.
But even with the 21-month trial period, some education deans said they do not think the ncate redesign is ready for implementation.
According to Arnold M. Gallegos, dean of the college of education at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, "there will have to be some more discussion."
Mr. Gallegos said he is particularly opposed to the use of standardized testing as an entry requirement.
"I have problems with that because I don't know of any test that is adequate," he said, adding that officials at the university are "very concerned about what this will do to minority and disadvantaged students who want to be teachers."
May Increase Shortages
Several deans also expressed concern about the possible impact of the proposed standards on the impending teacher shortage.
Requiring prospective teaching students to have a college grade-point average of at least 2.5 would "knock out" some students who currently qualify for teacher-training programs, several deans said.
For example, at Indiana State University, Terre Haute, if the 2.5 gpa admissions requirement had been in effect for students attending the college of education during 1982-83 and 1983-84, about 11 percent of the students would not have been there, said J. Stephen Hazlett, dean of the college.
Although he is concerned about the impact the standards will have on the teacher shortage, said Michael P. Timpane, dean of Teachers College at Columbia University, "I don't see any other alternative. This is a bullet we have to bite. We have to look at the agenda for excellence and we have to ask, 'Do we really think that we can address that agenda without a high-quality teaching4force?' The answer is no."
"You're darn right there will be a shortage if we raise standards," added Charles W. Case, education dean at the University of Iowa, Iowa City.
But that should not be a consideration in developing rigorous standards, Mr. Case maintained. The solution, he said, is to get politicians to stop "talking out of both sides of their mouths" and pay competitive teachers' salaries.
Standards Too High
Several deans of state colleges said the ncate proposal is "worrisome" to them in particular for several reasons.
"Many state institutions may have some problems meeting the proposed standards," said Gene Campbell, dean of the college of education at the University of Arkansas in Little Rock.
But Mr. Hearn of Tennessee Technological University disagreed. "I think the standards can be met," he said, "but I don't think they are representative of the profession."
Opposition to some of the ncate proposals is widespead at the state-college level, Mr. Hearn said.
In February, for example, the Teacher Education Council of State Colleges and Universities, a group of deans representing about 130 colleges of education, drafted a document that asked ncate officials to postpone adoption of the redesign.
Mr. Hearn, who is a member of the committee that drafted the resolution, said the council opposes a change in ncate policy under the redesign that requires colleges of education not only to meet the standards of ncate, but also the standards of specialty groups, such as those of the National Science Teachers Association.
Several deans also asserted that implementing the proposed standards will be costly.
"It will be more expensive for us," said Joseph Lamberti, dean of the college of education at Butler College in Indianapolis. But he added that the additional cost can be looked at as a positive factor for teacher-training programs.
Teacher education has been opperating "on the inexpensive side" for many years, he said, and the ncate standards may be a way to get university administrations to put more resources into the programs.
Other deans agreed with Mr. Lamberti that the standards would have a positive influence on teacher-training programs.
"ncate, within the limits of its power and authority, is doing exactly the right thing," said Mr. Case of the University of Iowa. "I think that if the standards stay intact, it will be a major advance."
Mr. Timpane of Teachers College said the follow-up requirement in the ncate proposal is extremely important to improving teacher-training programs because it will force colleges to institutionalize a program to measure the success of their students in the classroom.
"Follow-up is mostly done on an ad hoc basis now," he said.
According to Norene Daly, director of teacher education at Madonna College, a small liberal arts college in Livonia, Mich., the ncate plan includes reforms that have already been instituted at Madonna.
"We were not so blind that we couldn't see very early on that we were getting students with weak communication skills and low gpa's," she said.