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Link Between Accreditation, Status in AACTE Proposed

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Education schools that belong to the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education should become nationally accredited or have their membership status reduced, the organization's new president has urged.

Richard Wisniewski, the dean of the college of education at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, ran for a one-year term as president of the association on a platform calling for education schools to redesign themselves and to become accredited by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education.

"We would be saying that national accreditation is a vehicle to quality that we believe in so strongly that we do not want to associate with those institutions that are not nationally accredited,'' Mr. Wisniewski said in an address to the association's annual meeting here last month.

"That would change the face of the teaching profession and link us closely with practitioners more dramatically than any 10,000 additional reports, words, speeches, or protestations,'' he asserted. "It just won't happen any other way.''

Of the association's more than 700 members, about 200 are not accredited by NCATE.

Although not all its members are accredited, AACTE helped create NCATE and contributes substantial funding to it. Last year, the association's NCATE fees totaled $117,000.

Mr. Wisniewski pledged to push his proposal "as hard as a president can push it.'' The association's history of supporting NCATE while not requiring its own members to become accredited has been "two faced,'' he said.

The association has debated requiring its members to become nationally accredited before, most recently in 1987. But no change was made. (See Education Week, Feb. 25, 1987.)

Although Mr. Wisniewski's proposal encountered some opposition at last month's meeting of deans and directors of teacher education programs, the climate is generally more favorable now for such a policy change, several teacher-educators said.

'More Pro Than Con'

When members of the board of directors discussed the proposal, sentiment was "more pro than con,'' said Mary Diez of Alverno College, the outgoing president of the association.

Ms. Diez said she believes that the context for the discussion has changed dramatically since 1987 as a result of growing public impatience with the quality of higher education in general, the movement to set standards in education, and NCATE's own redesign.

"The public sees the absence of quality and says, 'What do you mean you don't have to submit your programs to the profession?''' she said.

Still, Ms. Diez acknowledged that she is torn by the issue and dislikes the idea of the association's "excluding'' certain institutions.

"There ought to be one place that teacher education can come together and talk,'' she said.

Ronald G. Midkiff of Carson-Newman College, the president of the Association of Independent Liberal Arts Colleges for Teacher Education, said his organization favors leaving AACTE membership open.

"Let's be an organization that nurtures and encourages people through workshops to become accredited, showing them how to go through the process,'' he said.

Mr. Midkiff, who is a member of the AACTE board of directors, also expressed concern over the financial ramifications of requiring members to become nationally accredited. Creating an associate-member category for institutions that are not nationally accredited probably would require a change in the association's dues structure, he suggested.

The board will have to develop a specific proposal for changing the membership requirements and submit it to a vote at next year's annual meeting.

'Simultaneous Renewal'

The board's deliberations will take place as it plans to carry out a new strategic plan for the association over the next 10 years. The plan calls for AACTE to champion the "simultaneous renewal'' of teacher education and schools, to focus on preparing future teachers to work with diverse types of students, and to prepare educators to take an "integrated approach'' to serving learners.

Mr. Wisniewski said education schools should be given five years in which to become nationally accredited. During that time, he said, AACTE would devote some of its resources to helping institutions meet the standards of national accreditation.

After that time, those that had not met NCATE's benchmarks would become associate members of AACTE.

Another member of the board of directors, Roderick J. McDavis of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, strongly backed the plan.

"You reach a point where you have to make tough decisions,'' he said. "Our association should be at the forefront of embracing standards.''

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