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NCATE Revises Standards To Avoid Duplication

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Many institutions seeking national accreditation for their teacher-training programs will soon be able to do so at less cost and with less duplication of effort, under new standards approved by the group that accredits such programs.

The new rules provide that, once the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education has endorsed a state's system for approving the quality of individual programs, the focus of NCATE's evaluation will be on the entire school, college, or department that prepares teachers.

In the past, both NCATE and state authorities have reviewed the quality of specific programs within an institution seeking accreditation, often overlapping in their work.

By assigning an "appropriate role for the state agency, rather than bypassing the state,'' said Richard C. Kunkel, the accrediting body's executive director, NCATE is "beginning to assure a level of quality across the 50 states in the preparation of teachers.''

He added that, under the standardsadopted by NCATE's executive board this month, a state can voluntarily ask to have its approach to program approval "recognized the same way institutions ask to be accredited.''

In another change, an institution seeking accreditation must put all programs that prepare educators up for review, either by the state or by NCATE. In the past, an institution was free to seek national accreditation for any number of programs of its choosing.

Mr. Kunkel noted that some states may still opt to have NCATE evaluate individual teacher-training programs, as well as whole institutions.

The revised program-approval system--considered an important part of a broader effort by the accrediting body to redesign and upgrade its standards and procedures--should save institutions money, time, and effort, Mr. Kunkel said.

Constitutional Debate

On another issue considered at the executive-board meeting, a proposed amendment to the group's constitution sparked a debate that several participants said might delay the American Federation of Teachers' application for a seat on the board.

After years of expressing reservations about NCATE's standards, the A.F.T. asked to join the redesigned accrediting group last year.

While that application has been approved by the executive board, a constitutional amendment is required to broaden the definition of the teacher constituency allowed to appoint members to the board. At present, the National Education Association, one of the accrediting group's founding members, has sole authority to appoint teacher members to the board.

The portion of the amendment that would allow the A.F.T. to join and to appoint teacher members was not contested by board members.

However, another provision that would broaden the definition of the teacher-education constituency was challenged, according to several board members.

At present, only the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, another of NCATE's founding members, has the authority to appoint teacher educators to the board. Under the proposed constitutional change, other associations of "teacher-education institutions''--such as the Holmes Group consortium of research universities--would be allowed to join the group and appoint members to the board.

The debate erupted, board members said, when Jack Cassidy of the International Reading Association suggested dropping the word "institution'' from the amendment--a change that would allow associations of "individual'' teacher educators, such as the Association of Teacher Educators, to be included in that constituency.

Currently, the A.T.E. is aligned with the NCATE constituency comprising specialty or subject-area groups, which have individual, rather than institutional, members.

But AACTE representatives and several others on the board objected to Mr. Cassidy's proposal, according to board members present. AACTE representatives argued that since NCATE accredits teacher-education institutions, one of the group's four constituencies should be limited to representatives of those colleges and universities.

The board voted 8 to 7 to accept the change proposed by Mr. Cassidy. But when the entire amendment package, including the provisions that would bring the A.F.T. onto the board, is put to a final vote in four months, it must pass by a two-thirds majority.

Currently, such a consensus does not seem likely, a number of board members said. But Mr. Kunkel predicted that "something will be worked out'' before the next vote.

'Part of the Puzzle'

During its meeting, the board also spent an hour with Marc Tucker, executive director of the Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy, in a discussion of how the forum's proposed national certification board for teachers might relate to national accreditation.

Mr. Tucker, who is now working with a 33-member planning group to establish such a board by this summer, said that the issue of accreditation is one that the board itself will have to address, once it is established.

According to Mr. Tucker, both accreditation and certification are "a very important part of the puzzle in the creation of standards for teachers.''

He added, however, that poor public perceptions of the institutions that train teachers make it unlikely that "accreditation is going to be the primary route for improving teacher education.''

Mr. Tucker said he could see "no reason'' why NCATE and the proposed board should have a competitive relationship. Each, he said, will "address standards at two different parts of the system.''

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