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Poll Backs Required Teacher Graduation from Accredited Ed. School

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WASHINGTON--The general public overwhelmingly supports the concept that teachers be graduates of nationally accredited professional programs, findings from a national poll released last week by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education indicate.

The accrediting body, whose mission is to establish a nationwide quality-control system for teacher education, will use the results of the survey to help persuade state policymakers to require graduation from an accredited institution as a prerequisite for teacher licensure.

Currently, only 521 of the 1,279 teacher-training institutions nationwide are part of the NCATE system. (See Education Week, March 24, 1993.)

At the body's first-ever press conference, Arthur E. Wise, the president of NCATE, said he hoped the survey results would make the public more sensitive to and sophisticated about the issue of teacher preparation and its link to the quality of education for the nation's schoolchildren.

"We also would hope policymakers will pay attention to these findings and take appropriate action,'' he said.

According to the poll, 82 percent of the respondents endorsed the idea of requiring teachers to graduate from nationally accredited professional schools, as doctors must do; 68 percent said they believed that student performance would improve if teachers were required to meet higher professional-training standards.

Based on the survey results, those questioned clearly believed that the nation's schools need improvement. Eighty percent said public education is not providing students with the skills and knowledge society needs.

The poll also indicated that teachers who are trained in professional schools should be compensated accordingly. Eighty-three percent of the respondents said they favored higher salaries for such teachers.

But the question of whether the respondents would be willing to pay higher taxes to support such a policy decision was left unasked.

Nearly three-fourths of those surveyed said they would favor policies requiring local districts to hire teachers trained "according to national professional-accreditation standards.''

Public Wants Change

Mr. Wise characterized the poll results as "startling.''

While acknowledging that people will naturally select quality over inferiority when given a choice, Mr. Wise said it was the strength of the responses that he found surprising.

"The public is saying it wants change from what is today,'' Mr. Wise said. "Typically, people might expect people to want to cling to the past, to the status quo.''

Results of the poll were endorsed by the National Education Goals Panel as well as several leaders within the education community.

"New standards for students will be meaningless without a teaching force that is prepared to help students meet more challenging standards,'' said Wilmer S. Cody, the executive director of the goals panel.

The telephone survey of 1,003 randomly selected Americans was conducted on Jan. 30 by the Washington-based firm of Penn & Schoen.

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