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To the Editor:

Your report of recent actions by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education ("Heeding Constituents, NCATE Alters 2 Procedures,'' Oct. 14, 1992) includes comments that some institutions are 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.''

The original concept paper that launched the NCATE redesign in 1983 contained a set of recommendations to address concerns about the existing NCATE standards and procedures and to suggest ways in which accreditation could be a positive force in the continuing improvement of teacher-education units. Continuing accreditation was recommended as a replacement for re-accreditation to respond to: (1) institutional complaints about the lack of differentiation between initial and re-accreditation; (2) stakeholder observations that institutions seemed to take the standards seriously only for a brief period just prior to a scheduled visit; and (3) the goal held by many that accreditation should stimulate improvement above minimum standards as well as provide consumer protection.

As described in the concept paper the new system would, overall, reduce the burden on institutions. Major self studies and lengthy institutional reports would be required only once--at the time of initial review under the new system. To further reduce the burden, the information for the annual reports would be as similar as possible to the type of information every teacher-education-unit administrator should consider for annual and long-term planning needs within the institution. And, for continuing accreditation visits, teams would be small and institutional reports would be brief. Thus, the system would not distract from local planning but it would provide assurance for the profession and public that conditions necessary for high-quality programs were maintained.

The reactions to the concept of continuing accreditation cited in your report are distressing for several reasons. First, the comments ignore the fact that institutions have been participating in continuing accreditation since they filed their first joint American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education/NCATE annual report. Second, one would hope that institutions have indeed been involved in a "continuing effort'' to maintain and improve the quality of their efforts in teacher education. Not only is such attention to standards a basic premise in higher education, it also is a basic goal of the NCATE redesign.

Dale P. Scannell
Columbia, S.C.

To the Editor:

You recently reported increased support throughout the United States for private school vouchers, and described the work of businesses, private foundations, and individual donors to provide vouchers to parents of from $750 to $3,000 per child ("Hundreds Turn Backs on Public Schools as Privately Funded Vouchers Take Hold,'' Sept. 16, 1992).

Proponents call it giving parents a choice in their children's education. But the parents of children already in private schools probably will be the only ones who really have a choice.

Proponents say giving parents a publicly funded voucher to help pay private school tuition will give low-income families a better education for their children. But "choice'' proponents evidently have not studied the simple arithmetic of their equation.

Since many private schools cost more than $5,000 a year, how will a family of four, earning less than $20,000 a year, be able to pay the extra annual costs above the $3,000-per-child maximum voucher?

"Choice'' proponents deny that the use of public funds for private education would hurt public schools. They maintain that providing subsidies for private schools would motivate public schools to improve by providing competition. But this argument presupposes that public schools are part of the free-enterprise system and are subject to the same rewards and penalties that motivate private corporations. They are not.

Common sense tells us that removing more and more funds from public schools would instead result in wholesale cuts in services and would plunge the educational excellence of our few model programs way below mediocrity levels.

If an educational-choice program were put into effect, not only would public schools deteriorate, but, very likely, private schools as well. New private schools would sprout everywhere to take advantage of the bonanza, and "choice''-school scams would abound.

And who would be attending these new scam schools? The very children that proponents claim "choice'' schools would help the most: children from low-income families who could not afford the extra tuition at most private schools; children with learning problems; children with behavior problems; children with disabilities.

We should also note that private service providers are not necessarily better than public service providers. Two examples are the Chicago Transit Authority's contracted para-transit program for people with disabilities and the Chicago board of education's contracted transportation services for students. Both systems have been fraught with serious problems for years.

Private schools have always had the choice to accept or reject any student perceived as not appropriate. They have always been able to reject students for reasons of finances, learning difficulties, behavior problems, disabilities--or any reason whatsoever. Under a choice program, would private schools still retain the right to choose their students? If so, it means less choice for families, not more.

Charlotte Des Jardins
Executive Director
Family Resource Center on Disabilities
Chicago, Ill.

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