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Heeding Constituents, NCATE Alters 2 Procedures

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Responding to pressure from state policymakers as well as from colleges of education, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education last week adopted significant procedural changes on two fronts.

States entering into a partnership with îãáôå will be given a new option of basing accreditation in part on a performance assessment of education school graduates rather than solely on the training process itself.

In addition, the accrediting body said it is delaying for about one year the full implementation of its continuing-accreditation system, which was to take effect this academic year.

The actions were taken in large measure to shore up support for the accrediting body, which has come under fire for what critics have seen as a failure to respond to its constituents' concerns.

"We're pleased that we've been heard, and we'll continue to watch,'' Carl Stedman, the president of the Teacher Education Council of State Colleges and Universities, or TECSCU, an NCATE member group that had called for changes in the organization, said of the decisions.

'Forward-Looking Decision'

The new state option for NCATE partnership brings the agency in line with a 1990 report by the National Governors' Association and a resolution adopted last year by the Council of Chief State School Officers to work with îãáôå to create a national system of accreditation that emphasizes teachers' knowledge and performance.

"It's a very, very important and forward-looking decision that ... NCATE has made,'' Ted Sanders, the superintendent of public instruction for Ohio and the chairman of NCATE's state-recognition board, said of the new state option.

"The main focus of the new option [is] to be an integral part of the reform movement,'' said Jane Leibbrand, a spokeswoman for NCATE.

Arthur E. Wise, the president of NCATEå, said the body added the new option because some states are already moving toward performance-based licensing of teachers.

Also, accreditation of other professional schools--such as those for medicine, physical therapy, and engineering--is already based in part on graduates' performance, he said.

The new option represents an alternative to what are basically two options for states' involvement with NCATE, Mr. Wise said.

In all three cases, NCATE's standards are applied to the college of education as a whole.

But, under the new option, instead of applying either NCATE's or the state's specific program standards to, say, elementary education or English education, the performance of the graduates from those programs would be assessed.

That performance would include the graduates' scores on the state subject-licensing tests, Mr. Wise said, but would not be based solely on scores from a standardized test.

Other factors, perhaps including classroom observation or portfolio assessment, would also come into play, he said. The specific criteria for outcomes assessment are to be determined by a committee representing all sectors of NCATE membership, Ms. Leibbrand said.

The performance evaluation would be a "broad assessment of the teacher's knowledge and ... skills,'' Mr. Wise said.

He said he expects two states--which he would not name--to choose the new option this school year.

Delay Linked to Criticism

Meanwhile, the postponement in implementation of the continuing-accreditation system--as well as other changes announced last week--are linked to criticisms leveled by the teacher-education council and others, said Keith B. Geiger, the president of the National Education Association and a member of NCATE's executive board.

Earlier this month, TECSCU's membership unanimously ratified an executive-board resolution supporting a national system of accreditation but strongly advocating changes in the governance structure of NCATE, said Mr. Stedman, who is the dean of the college of education at Austin Peay State University in Tennessee.

But in an interview last week, Mr. Stedman called the accrediting body's new actions "very positive.'' He said he was most pleased with the group's attention to a variety of issues of concern to ôåãóãõ--from delaying implementation of continuing accreditation to adding members to its executive board.

"I think it will soften the [ôåãóãõ board] resolution, certainly,'' he said.

"At the time the resolution was developed, I think the members did not see'' action in response to their concerns, Mr. Stedman said.

Wait Allows Look at Design

The delay in implementing the continuing-accreditation process affects 13 schools that were the first accredited under new NCATE standards put into effect in the fall of 1988.

The schools retain their accreditation pending the implementation of the program, NCATE officials said.

The postponement was done "so that the final design is one that facilitates institutional improvement,'' a written summary of last week's NCATE board meeting said.

The wait also allows NCATE to insure that the process is more streamlined than that for initial accreditation, Ms. Leibbrand of NCATE said.

Two or three institutions will voluntarily undergo NCATE accreditation this academic year in a pilot test of the new system and provide feedback to NCATE, officials said. One of those is Columbus College in Georgia, Ms. Leibbrand said.

Mr. Stedman said his group is concerned that the five-year NCATE accreditation cycle is too short and puts "quite a bit of pressure'' on institutions to be in "almost a continuing effort'' to prepare for it.

Also at its board meeting, NCATE acted to increase the reliability of its accreditation process--a sore point with colleges of education--by nearly doubling the budget for the training of on-site team members to $139,050.

NCATE also will institute a new system for tracking team-member performance and took initial steps to increase the variety of representation on its 21-member executive board by moving to add eight members.

The group also announced last week that 42 of 52, or 80.8 percent, of institutions that applied for teacher-education accreditation were granted accreditation in the most recent round of biannual decisions.

Only 3 1/2 institutional units were denied accreditation, while 6 1/2 were accredited with stipulations.

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