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Iowa, NCATE Plan Joint Teacher-Training Reviews

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The Iowa state school board and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education have agreed to conduct joint reviews of teacher-education institutions in the state.

The decision, which was approved unanimously by the state board May 7, follows a recent move by Iowa's four largest universities to withdraw from the national accreditation process.

Only schools that choose to undergo national accreditation will be subjected to the joint reviews.

William L. Lepley, the state's director of education, said last week that he pushed for the joint-review process because it will benefit teacher education in the state. The decision was not intended to influence the universities to reconsider their decision to withdraw from NCATE, Mr. Lepley said, but he added that he hopes that will happen.

"Even though it's within the authority of the four institutions not to participate nationally,'' he said, "in the long run, it's a benefit to stay in and make the system work.''

The presidents of Drake University, Iowa State University, the University of Iowa, and the University of Northern Iowa pulled their programs out of the NCATE process in March. They called the national system of accreditation for teacher education "too prescriptive, time-consuming, and costly'' and questioned its value as a spur to self-improvement. (See Education Week, March 18, 1992.)

Deans of the schools or colleges of education at Drake, Iowa State, the University of Iowa, and the University of Northern Iowa said last week that the announcement of the joint-review process would not cause them to change their minds about their respective withdrawals from NCATE.

The Iowa Association of Colleges of Teacher Education endorsed the state board's decision to sign on to a system of joint reviews.

'Extremely Positive'

Speaking May 8 at the biannual meeting of the NCATE executive board in Washington, Arthur E. Wise, the president of the accrediting agency, called the Iowa agreement "an extremely positive development'' for his organization. NCATE has been the object of a backlash since it adopted tougher standards in 1988. (See Education Week, Feb. 26, 1992.)

Iowa becomes the 25th state to seek and receive recognition by the accreditation agency. In general, the recognition implies that NCATE approves of the program standards set by the state.

Specifically, Iowa elected to become an "Option 2'' state, the option a plurality of the states have chosen. Option 2 calls for a joint team to visit and examine the state's institutions. Both the NCATE unit and the state standards are used during the visit, and each team member gets to vote on both sets of standards.

Although there are a number of reasons for conducting joint reviews, a major one is to cut down on the amount of paperwork and duplication of preparation required of institutions.

One of the major reasons cited by the four Iowa institutions that withdrew from NCATE was the cumbersome nature of a process that the state had also put them through.

Grant for Collaboration

In a related development, NCATE has received a three-year, $600,000 grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts that is intended to help the agency develop a national initiative to strengthen collaboration with the states.

The grant from the Philadelphia-based philanthropy will enable the body to convene working groups to address such issues as enhancing interstate reciprocity for teachers and eliminating duplication in state program approval and accreditation.

At the same time, NCATE announced it will raise its constituent groups' dues by 15 percent. The additional money will be dedicated to reducing the agency's deficit, which should take four to five years, according to Keith B. Geiger, the chairman of the NCATE executive board and the president of the National Education Association.

Constituent dues currently range from $6,000 for some of the smaller specialty groups to $100,000 for the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.

Last year, NCATE had asked its 27 constituency groups for voluntary contributions. The seven that donated money may apply for a waiver, Mr. Geiger said.

Addressing Colleges' Concerns

Despite the high-profile defections in recent months of the Iowa universities as well as several institutions in Arizona, Mr. Wise told the executive board at the meeting this month that "we have many more institutions interested in becoming accredited by NCATE.''

He said the number of NCATE-accredited institutions still stands at approximately 500; another 60 are in the pipeline as candidates.

Some of the controversy surrounding NCATE stems from institutions' complaints that the association has turned a deaf ear to their concerns.

To address those concerns, the executive board established a committee comprising five ranking board members and Mr. Wise. The new panel will convene meetings with small groups of institutional representatives.

The accrediting agency also will survey affiliated institutions to elicit their assessments. Reports are expected at the fall meeting of the NCATE board.

Staff Writers Daniel Gursky and Millicent Lawton contributed to this report.

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