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NCATE Rejects Over One-Fifth of Accreditation Requests

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More than one-fifth of the 50 colleges of education seeking accreditation with the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education were denied approval last week.

At its biannual meeting in Memphis, the group's unit accreditation board voted to reject 11 education schools seeking either reaccreditation or first-time accreditation with the group, the major accrediting body for postsecondary teacher-training programs.

Six institutions were approved with the stipulation that they make certain program improvements, and the remaining 33 won unconditional approval.

Although still high, that rate of denial was slightly lower than it has been since the organization implemented a tougher set of standards in 1988.

Once widely criticized for being weak and arbitrary in its evaluations, the organization set out nearly seven years ago to begin toughen4ing and revising its standards. Last year, the first full year of operation under the new standards, nearly one-third of the teacher-training programs up for accreditation were turned down. (See Education Week, Sept. 27, 1989.)

Organization officials said the smaller proportion of institutions failing to gain approval last week may reflect both the individual nature of the process and the passage of time since the new standards were implemented.

"These schools just had more time to prepare," said Donna M. Gollnick, the organization's interim executive director.

Citing as an example the ncate requirement that teacher-training programs reflect the "knowledge base for teaching," she noted that just a few years ago, "as a profession, we had not talked much about what the knowledge base really meant."

"You need time to do that right," she added.

The group of schools up for review last week was the largest number ever evaluated by the unit accreditation board at one time.

It also included one college of education from Texas, where a controversial new state law limits those seeking teacher certification to 18 credit hours of teacher-education courses.

Critics of that law have contended that it strips the colleges of their ability to govern themselves--an important requirement for meeting ncate standards. They called upon the organization to revoke the accreditation of every approved teacher-training proel15lgram in the state. (See Education Week, March 15, 1989.)

In response, the organization decided last fall to pay particular attention to that issue as each teacher-training program in Texas comes up for review.

Last week, however, the group reaccredited the program at Sam Houston State University--the first Texas school to seek approval since the new state law was passed.

Ms. Gollnick said the group's unit accreditation body did not evaluate that school's program in light of the new law because the school's approval process began long before ncate resolved to scrutinize the Texas programs more closely. In addition, she said, the law is not scheduled to be fully implemented until next year.

For those schools denied accreditation last week, the most common problem was the program's failure to reflect the knowledge base for teaching, ncate officials said.

Some of the post-baccalaureate programs denied accreditation also did not provide faculty members with reduced workloads--a requirement intended to provide teacher educators more time for research.

James Cooper, chairman of the unit accreditation board, noted that many programs lacked culturally diverse student bodies and faculties.

"Everybody knows we've got a shortage of minority students and faculty in teacher education schools," said Mr. Cooper, who is also dean of the University of Virginia's education school. "What made the difference for us was whether that institution seemed to be doing everything it possibly can to recruit in that area."

Approximately 550 of the 1,400 institutions that prepare teachers are accredited by ncate. Those schools produce about 80 percent of the nation's teachers, according to the organization.

Colleges that are denied accreditation have 15 days to notify ncate if they plan to appeal. If an institution does not appeal, the denial will be publicly disclosed within 30 days of ncate's written notification.

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