To the Editor:
In response to “Prominent Teacher-Educator Assails Field, Suggests New Accrediting Body in Report” (Sept. 20, 2006):
Arthur E. Levine’s study was outdated before it was published. He collected his data for the study from schools of education five years ago. That year, 2001, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education launched its performance-based accreditation system.
The system required schools of education to redesign their programs to provide convincing evidence that candidates have gained the knowledge and skills to help all P-12 students learn. NCATE allowed institutions several years—until 2005—to make all the major changes its new standards envisioned.
All institutions are now expected to have assessment systems that measure candidate knowledge, skills, and teaching performance. Institutions must demonstrate that their candidates know the subject they plan to teach, and how to teach it so that students learn. They must demonstrate that their programs meet national professional standards in the various teaching disciplines. To do this, they are using various methodologies, such as teacher work samples, portfolios, and other means. They use common assessments for all candidates in a program. These demanding new standards require genuine collaboration between faculty in education and the liberal arts.
Institutions also are expected to carry out and report follow-up studies of their graduates and use all performance data to improve their programs. Mr. Levine’s call to build teacher-preparation programs around the knowledge and skills that promote classroom learning is exactly what NCATE has been doing for the past five years.
Mr. Levine visited 28 institutions, of which 16 were NCATE-accredited. The exemplary programs his report highlights were all NCATE-accredited. In fact, all of the institutions mentioned positively by name in the Levine report are NCATE institutions. NCATE and its institutions have been on a continuous trajectory of standards development and reform. This is why 50 state boards of education and boards of teaching have entered into partnership with NCATE to increase the rigor of teacher-preparation programs.
While Mr. Levine was conducting his study, faculty members and deans at Teachers College, Columbia University, the institution of which he was president, were preparing for their own review by NCATE and making a number of major changes in their practices to meet the new standards. According to Associate Dean A. Lin Goodwin, “As we have become much more specific and transparent about student learning goals and outcomes, candidates have, in turn, acquired a more concrete understanding of program expectations.”
And that is the point. The teaching profession, through NCATE, created a strong consensus about standards, assessments, and student learning that it expected to become the norm in education schools. In 2005, NCATE was pleased to accredit Teachers College, one of the nation’s premier education schools, and have it join the 718 institutions committed to professional accreditation of education schools.
Arthur E. Wise
National Council for Accreditation of