Making Sense of the Alphabet Soup

By Jeanne McCann — March 01, 2004 2 min read

Acronyms crop up with alarming regularity in the pages of Education Week. At times, their proliferation confuses even us. We’ve selected a few we thought you might want to know about. (Note: Inclusion does NOT imply endorsement by Education Week.)

NBPTS: The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards provides advanced certification to expert or master teachers, a certification recognized by all 50 states. In fiscal 2004, Congress appropriated money for the board, most recently $10 million. There’s been ongoing debate, however, over the value of NBPTS certification. But a March 2004 study (see “Professional Resources,” below) shows that board-certified teachers are more effective in raising student achievement than other teachers.

ABCTE: The American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence measures subject-matter knowledge and pedagogical skills of wannabe educators through standardized tests. ABCTE provides an alternative route to certification based largely on tests and not so much on teacher education, a controversial strategy. Last fall, the U.S. Department of Education awarded ABCTE $35 million, even though it had only signed on a single state at the time, a move that generated criticism.

NCATE: The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. If you’re in an ed school, or considering one, this is the group that likely bestows--or withholds--your school’s accreditation. In an attempt to move toward a national standard, NCATE joined with the Educational Testing Service--purveyors of the PRAXIS assessments for licensure--to work toward development of a single national pass score on the ETS subject matter test. Student performance on state exams is but one consideration in NCATE’s accreditation process.

TEAC: The Teacher Education Accreditation Council, touted as an alternative to NCATE. To earn TEAC certification, colleges submit a document for TEAC’s review, outlining why they deserve accreditation. Last fall the Education Department labeled TEAC as “recognized,"--an important step, since many states require colleges of education to earn accreditation from a group approved by the Education Department. Critics of TEAC say that its process is not as thorough as NCATE’s. Supporters hail the competition it brings to the accreditation field.

PRAXIS: ETS produces PRAXIS, a series of tests that measure basic skills, subject-matter knowledge, and actual teaching performance. PRAXIS assessments are currently used in 35 of the 43 states that use tests as part of the teacher licensure process.

NCTAF: The National Commission on Teaching & America’s Future produces research-based reports on ways to improve teacher quality and conditions. It has produced much-referenced reports on teacher supply and demand and retention. Why should you care? Because this group calls for higher teacher-licensing standards, so its recommendations may end up directly affecting you.

NSDC: The National Staff Development Council focuses on professional development issues for teachers and administrators. NSDC just released a survey of more than 2,000 teachers and administrators suggesting that the professional-development requirement of the No Child Left Behind Act is not clearly known or understood. More than a third said that the first time they had heard of the provision was from the survey.

Are there other organizations you want the dope on? E-mail suggestions to: