NCATE Rejects Reaccreditation For 14 Colleges
Washington--In the first full year of operation under its tougher new set of standards, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education has denied approval to one-third of the colleges of education up for reaccreditation.
The statistics, which represent an increase over the denial rate of previous years, were released by ncate officials last week following the group's biannual meeting here.
At that meeting, the accrediting body also voted to take a cooperative approach to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards by setting up a small committee of members to follow the work of the board.
The action was in contrast to the opposition to the board expressed the previous week by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. That group voted not to support the board's work because of its failure to include graduation from an accredited teacher-education program among its requirements for certification.
Observers within and outside of ncate said last week that the large number of schools denied accreditation this year reflects both the quality of teacher-education programs in those institutions and the seriousness with which ncate is enforcing its newly redesigned accreditation standards.
"It's a whole new system up and operating," said Richard Kunkel, the organization's executive director, "and the members of this board are very conscious of the quality of instruction in our colleges and universities."
Ncate is the major accrediting body for postsecondary teacher-training programs. Although accreditation through the organization is voluntary, the 550 institutions approved by ncate produce nearly 80 percent of all teachers in the United States. And an increasing number of states, such as Arkansas and North Carolina, have required that teachers graduate from an ncate-accredited school in order to be licensed to teach.
'Getting Its Own House in Order'
Once widely criticized for being "weak" and arbitrary in its evaluations, ncate set out six years ago to toughen up and redesign its standards. Since then, the number of institutions denied accreditation has steadily increased.
In the 1983-84 school year--the year before the organization made a concerted effort to toughen its standards--only about one-tenth of the schools up for reaccreditation failed to gain approval.
Over the next few years, as the new standards were being discussed but not yet implemented, the proportion of institutions failing to make the grade hovered around one-fourth.
Of the 46 institutions visited by ncate examiners during the 1988-89 school year--the first full year the standards were in effect--14 were denied accreditation. One gained accreditation for its undergraduate teacher-education program but not for its graduate program. And eight others were accredited with the stipulation that they make certain program improvements.
"It's a sign that the organization is getting serious about establishing standards at a significant level and actually enforcing those standards, which I think is welcome," said Arthur Wise, director of the rand Corporation's center for the study of the teaching profession.
"The teacher-education community is getting its own house in order,'' he said. "Otherwise, others will be doing it for them."
James Cooper, who heads the ncate board charged with reviewing colleges of education, said a common fault among the institutions turned down was the failure to set a coherent, conceptual framework for the instruction taking place within their schools.
"Typically, what's happening is that a professor designs a course and it's added to the requirements," said Mr. Cooper, dean of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. "There may have been no programmatic effort to make sure everything is being taken care of and that there is no duplication."
In addition, he said, at many of the failing schools, "courses were being added without a lot of attention to the new research on what constitutes effective teaching."
The redesigned standards also require students entering an ncate-accredited program to have at least a 2.5 college grade-point average and to have passed a standardized basic-skills-proficiency test.
Accredited basic teacher-education programs must also provide a direct student-teaching experience that covers 10 weeks of full school days. And schools are required to assess the skills of their students prior to graduation and to track the progress of graduates through their first year of teaching.
Colleges that are denied accreditation have 15 days to notify Mr. Kunkel that they plan to appeal. If an institution does not appeal, the denial will be publicly disclosed within 30 days of ncate's written notification.
The bulk of this year's accreditation denials were made at the organization's meeting here Sept. 16-18.
Institutions are allowed up to two years to improve their program and reapply for accreditation. If they win approval on the next try, their accreditation will be retroactive to the date of denial.
According to Mr. Kunkel, the organization will appoint a liaison group of four or five members to follow the work of the national teaching board. Its purpose, he said, will be to ensure that the board's standards are reflected in ncate-approved schools.