Two Texas Schools Split With NCATE Over Schism Between Standards, Law
By Karen Diegmueller
Facing a conflict between national accreditation standards and a state ceiling on education credits for teacher candidates, two Texas education schools have withdrawn from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.
The actions preceded a decision by the accreditation body last week to proceed with reviewing Texas institutions on a case-by-case basis, rather than as a group, to determine whether they continue to meet ncate standards in light of their state's law and related policies.
Both the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Texas at El Paso have severed their relationships with ncate over the past two months. Officials of a third institution, North Texas State University, said after last week's vote that it, too, was likely to depart.
Manuel J. Justiz, dean of the college of education at the University of Texas at Austin, said the school's relationship with ncate had become counterproductive because of the schism between the organization and state authorities.
"There is no negative impact at all for any of our graduates" from a lack of ncate accreditation, said Mr. Justiz, explaining that Texas exports very few teachers. Even those who do leave, he said, would easily find jobs elsewhere because the need for ncate approval is far from universal.
"We have to choose between two not very good choices," added Richard L. Simms, associate dean for academic affairs in the education college at North Texas State. However, "we're not going to jeopardize our reputation to stay in ncate," said Mr. Simms, who will recommend that his school withdraw from the organization.
Some Favored 'Class Action'
Following the recommendation of ncate's president, Arthur E. Wise, the group's executive board voted to continue its policy of evaluating the standards of individual colleges rather than impose a "class action" against the state as a whole, as some Texas deans had advocated.
Mr. Wise, who took over the helm only two months ago in part to rebuild respect for the accreditation group, said ncate could not know if the institutions met his organization's standards until they were subjected to the accreditation process.
The discord stems from a bill passed by the Texas legislature in 1986. The law, which affects all graduates as of September 1991, places an 18-credit-hour limit on undergraduate teacher-education courses.
Last year, ncate agreed to examine the status of the Texas program in response to a complaint filed by Hendrik D. Gideonse, professor of education and policy science at the University of Cincinnati. (See Education Week, May 24, 1989.)
Many teacher educators are skeptical that the Texas colleges can satisfy ncate standards in an 18-hour framework that includes 6 hours of student teaching.
A number of college officials in the state had asked Mr. Wise to bring a class action against Texas to avoid the individual vulnerability of the institutions. Additionally, they had hoped the action would help persuade the powerful chairman of the Senate education committee, Carl A. Parker, to amend the cap.
'Sensible' Course or 'Setback'?
Several Texas educators expressed disappointment with last week's ncate decision. "Ncate has responded timorously," one educator said. "If this is the best that ncate can do, then why go to the ex8pense of being a member?"
But, according to Mr. Wise, not all of the Texas deans sought a wholesale repudiation of the state-imposed standards. "We would have produced a crisis that would not have been in the best interest of Texas institutions," he said.
Moreover, the ncate bylaws contain no mechanism for dealing with more than one institution at a time, according to group officers.
"There is no precedent for that," Mr. Gideonse acknowledged last week. From a practical standpoint, he said, the organization's resources would have to have been increased substantially to review the 18 affected Texas colleges out of the normal accreditation sequence.
Working on a case-by-case basis was "the only sensible thing to do,'' Mr. Gideonse said.
Although voting in line with the rest of the executive board, Gary D. Fenstermacher, dean of the college of education at the University of Arizona, expressed concern that the decision "takes care of the short run but not the long-run issue here."
Noting that state governments are increasingly invading terrain that was once the sole province of teacher-education programs, he said that ncate must act to support the autonomy of these institutions.
Some Texas educators, however, said the accrediting council's stance may harm its credibility. "Probably ncate has suffered some kind of moral setback with colleges of education in Texas because they haven't found a way to help from the outside," said Jon M. Engelhardt, dean of the college of education at the University of Texas at El Paso.
Despite his school's pullout from ncate, Mr. Engelhardt said he continued to support the group's standards. "When the situation becomes clearer, we may actually consider returning to ncate."
Allen R. Warner, associate dean of the college of education at the University of Houston and a member of the executive board, said one way for Texas schools to retain ncate accreditation may be to certify their advanced-studies programs in education, which have fewer state restrictions.