Influence of Teacher Education Accrediting Body Grows
With the recent approval of three new state partnerships, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education has seen its influence over teacher education double in the past five years.
At their annual board meeting here last month, NCATE leaders approved partnerships with Alaska, Missouri, and New York.
The Washington-based accreditation group, which appeared vulnerable to critics from higher education and state legislatures only a few years ago, now has formal agreements with 43 states and the District of Columbia to jointly evaluate teacher education programs.
David G. Imig, the chief executive officer of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, a Washington membership organization representing education schools, called the amount of interest among state policymakers in NCATE "extraordinary."
"A lot of it is an apprehension about the quality of teachers," Mr.
Imig said, "and that the quality of beginning teachers is a matter to
be examined very closely."
A Merging of Standards
In 16 states, officials use evidence from NCATE's review of preparation programs in deciding whether institutions may prepare teachers. In another 25 and the District of Columbia, they use a combination of NCATE's review and their own assessment of programs. But in the latter case, a state's own standards must match NCATE's closely.
In two states–Kentucky and Indiana–the accrediting council and the state are cooperating to focus on the performance of individual teaching candidates on licensing examinations, rather than the teacher education programs themselves.
By 2001, NCATE intends to shift its entire accreditation system to place greater emphasis on teacher candidates' performance. ("Accreditors Shift Toward Performance," Oct. 29, 1997.)
The growth of state partnership agreements means that standards for teacher education set by states and those set by the profession are beginning to merge, said Arthur E. Wise, the president of NCATE.
"Standards set by the profession are beginning to be applied almost everywhere," Mr. Wise said at a press briefing here last month.
In all but a few states, including Arkansas and North Carolina, national accreditation remains voluntary for institutions. Seventeen states require public colleges to be nationally accredited.
The number of states embracing NCATE is growing, however. In Alaska, the state school board intends to require institutions to become NCATE-accredited by 2004. A new law in Maryland mandates that colleges and universities seek national accreditation by 2000, although institutions with fewer than 2,000 students can request waivers.
Shirley Holloway, the commissioner of education in Alaska, noted that her state's teacher standards and NCATE's are similar.
"Both emphasize knowledge of subject matter and how to teach it effectively, and how to assess student learning and work closely with parents, the community, and diverse cultures," she said.
Inroads in New York
New York's partnership with NCATE represents a particularly important development, because only four of the 114 teacher education programs in the state are now nationally accredited.
Overall, NCATE accredits some 500 institutions, which prepare two-thirds of the nation's teachers. The organization has 75 applications pending from education schools seeking its stamp of approval--triple the amount of interest shown five years ago, officials say.
The New York agreement follows a policy change, made last summer by the state board of regents' task force on teaching, requiring teacher education programs to become accredited by 2004.
The policy does not specifically require teacher training programs to seek NCATE's endorsement.
Instead, it calls for accreditation by a professional education association or by a process to be formulated by the state. The language leaves open the possibility that institutions could be accredited by the Teacher Education Accrediting Council, or TEAC, a fledgling group that is seeking approval from the U.S. Department of Education to offer an accrediting system. ("Alternative Accrediting Organization Taking Form With Federal Assistance," Jan. 21, 1998.)
But of the two options, only NCATE, which has been around since 1954, is up and running.
Gerald W. Patton, New York's deputy commissioner for higher education, said the NCATE partnership will allow the state to have a role in the NCATE review process.
"That was essential to what the regents wanted to accomplish," Mr. Patton said.
In Missouri, the new partnership agreement with NCATE follows the state's overhaul of its own standards for approving teacher education programs. Now, the two sets of standards are better aligned, said Robert E. Bartman, the commissioner of education.
Some Missouri institutions that wanted to seek NCATE accreditation had expressed concern that undergoing both processes would be duplicative, Mr. Bartman explained. Half of Missouri's 34 programs are currently accredited by NCATE.
"We were looking at the content of teacher education programs, which NCATE is doing as well, so I would say we were on parallel lines," Mr. Bartman said.
Vol. 18, Issue 11, Page 5