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Standards Rejected

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In fact, supporters of the change, led by Richard Wisniewski, the outgoing president of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the organization in question, argued that education schools should unite behind common accreditation standards to help make teaching a true profession. But many education school officials balked at excluding some institutions from the association, saying it should remain an inclusive group that helps institutions improve their programs.

When the matter was put to a vote at AACTE's annual meeting in February, members voted 796-256 against the change in membership criteria. The proposal had called for institutions to become approved by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education by July 1, 2001, in order to be full members of the association.

Instead, members approved a resolution, crafted as an alternative to Wisniewski's proposal, that calls on AACTE to encourage its 720 member institutions to pursue or maintain national accreditation. About 200 of its members are not nationally accredited.

In arguing for his original proposal, Wisniewski said he was confident that all members would become accredited by the 2001 deadline. The real problem, he argued, was with the 500 additional institutions that prepare teachers but are neither nationally accredited nor members of AACTE. "I believe that the improvement of public education depends on drawing a line here,'' Wisniewski, the dean of the college of education at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, said.

Barbara Brittingham, education dean at the University of Rhode Island, agreed. "I try to imagine this conversation happening with a group of physicians or lawyers, and I just can't,'' she said. "If we want to work together to develop a profession, then this is an essential commitment we all must make.''

Other members, however, warned that such a move could harm the association, and they listed several respected institutions that might leave the group because their teacher education programs are not nationally accredited.

Still others noted that budget problems would make it difficult for some places to become accredited by NCATE. "We are struggling dreadfully to stay alive financially,'' said Sydney Schwartz, director of teacher education for the City University of New York system. "Are we going to punish those institutions that really don't have the money?''

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