NCATE Unveils a Plan for Aspiring Elementary Teachers
Programs that prepare elementary school teachers would shift their focus to monitoring candidates' performance, under a proposed blueprint released last week by the national organization that accredits teacher education.
Instead of looking at what classes and experiences are offered to candidates, the draft standards ask institutions of higher education to provide evidence of what their teacher-candidates know and can do.
Such an orientation meshes with the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education's plans to create a performance-based system of accreditation. That system, known as NCATE 2000, is now under development.
The "program standards for elementary teacher preparation," now available for review and comment, were drafted by a committee of representatives from 19 associations, most of them members of NCATE.
The standards call for institutions to gather information about candidates that is "as close as we can come to what it is that teachers actually do on a daily basis in the classroom," said Emerson J. Elliott, the former commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics who directed the project.
Mr. Elliott and Arthur E. Wise, the president of NCATE, who held a press briefing here to release the proposed standards, stressed that they are compatible with current thinking in the field. The standards fit closely, for example, with the expectations for beginning teachers written by the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium, a group of states working to improve initial teacher licensure.
The new standards also are modeled after the work of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, the Southfield, Mich.-based organization that is building a system of advanced certification for accomplished teachers.
The standards, Mr. Wise said, "reflect the new consensus about what elementary education should look like."
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Under the new process, education schools would be expected to submit
assessment results to demonstrate that their teacher-candidates were
proficient in the standards. Examples of such work would include scores
on state tests, portfolios, information gathered by students in their
coursework, and experience in schools.
Working the Faculty
Mr. Elliott, who predicted a mixed reaction to the standards, said the committee struggled with how much detail it should give on the kinds of assessments to be used. In the end, members opted not to be highly prescriptive.
Gary R. Galluzzo, the dean of the graduate school of education at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., called the standards "a convincing step in the right direction."
"States have ignored elementary teachers' knowledge," he said.
The draft document divides the standards into descriptions of good teaching in each subject an elementary teacher must know, and "institutional responsibilities." Those include steps that education schools must take to become accredited by NCATE using the proposed standards.
After the review period, the NCATE board will be asked next fall to approve the new elementary education standards. The entire NCATE 2000 system, of which the standards will be a part, is expected to debut in 2001.
Mr. Elliott said the Washington-based NCATE hopes to pilot-test the standards with institutions that are ready to move toward a focus on performance.
The greatest interest, he noted, has come from about 15 schools in Florida, Indiana, and Massachusetts--states that have signaled that they want to hold education schools accountable for the quality of the teachers they produce.
Nancy Quisenberry, a professor emeritus and former dean of the college of education at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, said the new standards will mean more work for education faculties.
"That's where the work is going to come in: to be able to document and provide evidence in a way that really shows that most of our students are capable of doing those things as beginning teachers," said Ms. Quisenberry, who served on the committee that drafted the standards.
Diana Rigden, the director of the teacher education program at the Council for Basic Education, a Washington group that promotes high standards throughout education, called the draft standards "a very ambitious set of goals."
To meet them, said Ms. Rigden, who also served on the committee, education faculty members will have to work more closely with their colleagues in arts and sciences.
Vol. 18, Issue 18, Page 5