Wash. Board Rejects Teacher-Preparation Program

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Acting for the first time under a new, more rigorous set of standards, the Washington State Board of Education has disapproved the largest teacher-preparation program in the state.

Voting 14 to 1, the board late last month rejected the program at Central Washington University. Four other teacher-training programs were approved with contingencies, while 14 were approved outright.

"The board is sending the message that we are serious about improving teacher quality, which goes hand in glove with education reform,'' said the board's chairman, R.E. Jorgensen.

In 1988, the state board adopted new standards for all professional preparation programs, in an attempt to upgrade the essential skills and knowledge bases of those who would one day work in the education field.

The 19 institutions that prepare teachers in the state had to adopt the standards by the 1990-91 academic year. Each year they also are required to submit a report showing they have complied in order to receive the board's approval.

Last fall, however, Central Washington University lost its national accreditation following a site visit by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.

"That triggered the state visit," said John L. Brickell, supervisor of professional education for the state education department. If it had not been for NCATE's action, Central Washington "would have been treated like every other institution," he explained.

The state visit turned up a number of areas in which Central Washington University was out of compliance, said Mr. Brickell, particularly in its lack of uniform application of the standards.

Under the old set of standards, Central Washington probably would have passed, since the examiners found it had failed to make the necessary adjustments to the new standards during the past three years, according to Ted Andrews, the head of professional development and certification for the state.

Several deans, in fact, had asked that the state board give them additional time, a request the panel rejected.

What the team found at Central Washington also has led the state to schedule visits this year to eight other institutions, half public and half private, that had provided only paper audits, Mr. Andrews said.

In a side-by-side comparison of NCATE and the new state standards, Mr. Brickell said state officials found a match as high as 80 percent between the two. "That was one thing that created the concern," he said.

Arthur E. Wise, president of NCATE, said he was heartened by the board's decision.

"Obviously they made their own independent assessment and reached the same conclusion that we did, but NCATE does not have the power to close institutions," Mr. Wise said. "We are an agency that is structured to make quality determinations, and it's then up to state officials or, in private universities, boards of trustees, to take actions designed to improve teacher education at their institutions. It is indispensable for the work which we do to have follow-up by officials at the local level."

As a result of losing state approval, Central Washington has been put on probation, meaning it may not admit any new students. Since the board's action occurred after the current term began, however, new students had been enrolled for the fall quarter. Should the university be unable to regain its certification, students already enrolled would be given two years to complete the program. The school, which graduates about 400 teacher candidates annually, also would be barred from admitting new students for the winter quarter.

Reinstatement Predicted

But both Mr. Brickell and Ron Frye, the new dean of the School of Professional Studies, said they believe Central Washington has a good chance of being reinstated as early as the end of November, at the board's next meeting.

"Since July, when the team found deficiencies, there has been a considerable amount of change," said Mr. Brickell.

"We'll make it in November. I'm very confident because of a staff that is working night and day," said Mr. Frye, who was appointed dean July 1. "I think there was an attitude of 'We passed in the past.' Those days are gone because all of education is under the gun. We're all being scrutinized and poked and prodded and evaluated."

To upgrade and meet NCATE and state standards, Mr. Frye said the school has revamped its course of study, is reorganizing its reporting responsibilities, and changing its evaluation criteria of students, staff, and programs.

Central Washington, he said, had failed the knowledge base as well as two other NCATE standards--curriculum design and faculty load. As a result, a campus-wide committee was established to address those issues.

The loss of state certification was not a surprise after the blow from NCATE. "It was a shock. It really hit the institution. As a result of that, I've probably had to do more damage control," said Mr. Frye.

Although he has fielded dozens of inquiries from students and parents, Mr. Frye said he does not know of any students who have dropped out as a result of the state action.

"In the long run, we are going to come out of this better," he added.

Vol. 11, Issue 06, Page 20

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