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NCATE Accreditation of Ed. Schools Advocated

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Washington

The Holmes Group's new blueprint for revitalizing education schools in research universities will include a requirement that they become nationally accredited, members of the group have decided.

The members, meeting here Jan. 28-30, approved a series of explicit action steps--including the accreditation requirement--for the group to take in pressing its reform agenda.

At the annual meeting, the members endorsed the group's new report, "Tomorrow's Schools of Education." (See Education Week, Feb. 1, 1995.)

The call for member institutions to seek accreditation by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education marks a turning point for the Holmes Group, which was formed by a group of education deans 10 years ago partly out of dissatisfaction with weak accreditation policies.

Since then, NCATE has strengthened its standards and emerged as a major voice in the effort to create reliable quality controls in the teaching profession.

Fewer than two-thirds of the 87 institutions in the Holmes Group are nationally accredited.

"The Holmes Group has come full circle," said Arthur E. Wise, the president of the accrediting council. "We are delighted to see this development. This represents a commitment to action on their part that is certainly welcome news."

Partners and Allies

In addition to the accreditation requirement, the group's action steps include:

  • Broadening the membership of the Holmes Group, which is now limited to the deans of education schools in research universities. In the restructured Holmes Group, to be planned over the next six months, universities and public schools would join as partners, to underscore Holmes's emphasis on closer ties with precollegiate education.
  • Allowing colleges and universities to pair up and join the Holmes Group together, so that they can combine their strengths. Research universities, for example, could form consortia with institutions that prepare large numbers of teachers.
  • Entering into formal partnerships with other professional groups. These would include the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the two national teachers' unions, and the American Association of School Administrators.

    These partners would help press the Holmes agenda and also develop new standards for the advanced education programs offered by many Holmes institutions. Currently, there is little oversight of such programs, although they prepare many of the nation's educational leaders.

  • Working with NCATE to incorporate new standards for advanced programs into the accreditation process.

    NCATE accredits entire education schools, with particular emphasis on the initial preparation of teachers. Mr. Wise said his organization would "welcome input from all quarters" on its accreditation process.

    The accreditation council's new project to develop standards for professional-development schools, which are being set up by many Holmes institutions, also will bring NCATE and Holmes closer together. (See Education Week, Feb. 1, 1995.)

  • Allying with the Institute for Educational Leadership to review the progress of Holmes institutions.

The group also announced that Michael Fullan of the University of Toronto will head a team of researchers that will evaluate the Holmes Group's progress over the past decade. They expect to report back to the group within a year.

No More 'Elitism'

At their meeting, Holmes Group members hailed the decision to reach out and enlist the help of a variety of partners.

Its recommendations for improving education schools also won praise, though some speakers noted that they were not particularly new.

"Teacher education has been studied and studied and studied," said David G. Imig, the executive director of aacte. But "the conception of these entities working together for a common purpose is thoroughly innovative."

Barbara Brittingham, the dean of the college of human science and services at the University of Rhode Island, agreed.

"Holmes has often been seen as an elitist group and has struggled with that," she said. "We know that to make real change we have to work with others."

The National School Boards Association welcomes Holmes's new activism, said Thomas A. Shannon, the association's executive director.

"In the parlance of high-society debutantes, the Holmes Group is coming out," he said.

But Mr. Shannon cautioned that practical-minded school board members will be skeptical that change actually will occur.

"You have a strong ally," Mr. Shannon said, "as long as you mean what you said."

Several deans said they were disappointed that the report failed to recognize the substantial progress many institutions have made toward improving their programs.

"I accept the analysis of the foibles of teacher education, but it seems to me in our own document, for God's sake, we ought to have blown our own horn," remarked Richard Wisniewski, the dean of the college of education at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

Hard Work Ahead

Mr. Wisniewski added that Holmes Group members should not underestimate the difficulty of the task before them.

"None of this can be achieved without fundamental restructuring that will cost some of us our jobs," he warned.

The battle to restructure education schools must be fought "office by office, floor by floor, colleague by colleague," he said.

Dolores Escobar, the dean of the education school at San Jose State University, which is not a member of the Holmes Group, said the report from the "high status" group is likely to put the heat on all education schools.

"What you say counts," she told the Holmes members. "And we know our feet will be held to the fire because of it."

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