Accrediting Body Questions Quality of Several Ed. Schools

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The quality of several of the largest teacher-training programs in the country has been called into question by the profession's national accrediting body.

Reports sent this summer to the institutions from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (ncate) cite a variety of weaknesses in a number of schools that apparently pull the institutions below the minimum standards of quality set by the accrediting group. The schools were reviewed during the last academic year by ncate in the course of regularly scheduled accreditation visits.

'Lack of Scholarly Activity'

Among the weaknesses mentioned in the reports--which are made available a month after the schools receive them--are "a lack of scholarly activity for many faculty over a long period of time," inadequate or nonexistent long-range planning, and an absence of evaluation of both programs and graduates.

These findings come at a time when the performance of the entire teacher-training profession has been harshly criticized by the public for failing to graduate competent teachers, causing many state legislatures and boards of education in recent months to mandate tougher entrance and "exit" standards for education schools under their jurisdiction.

Specifically, ncate, a nonprofit organization that accredits some 540 colleges and universities that graduate nearly 75 percent of the nation's new teachers each year, took the following actions at its June meeting:

Upheld on appeal its decision to drop its endorsement of all of the doctoral and "six-year" programs at the the University of Alabama's college of education.

In its report to the university, the accrediting body wrote that "there was exceptionally limited evidence of scholarly productiv-ity for graduate faculty," that "criteria for appointment and retention of graduate faculty members were found to lack rigor," and that six-year programs "require no period of full-time residency" at the university. (See Education Week, May 12, 1982.)

According to the school's statistics, the Alabama college of education has a graduate enrollment of 750 and last year awarded 65 Ph.D.'s, making it one of the major suppliers of doctoral degrees in the Southeast.

Dropped its endorsement of all graduate programs at Purdue University's school of education, with the exception of those in counseling.

While praising the quality of the school's faculty, the ncate report cited the school for a lack of long-range planning, the absence of a research requirement for all graduate students, and a failure to evaluate its graduates.

The Purdue education school is one of the largest in the Midwest; it awarded about 200 master's and 60 doctoral degrees last spring.

Dropped its endorsement of one or more programs at Western Michigan University, Seattle Pacific University, and two branch schools in the Indiana University system.

At a meeting last March, ncate denied reaccreditation to all of the undergraduate and graduate programs submitted for review by the State University of New York at Oswego.

First Time Accreditation

In June, the organization granted first-time accreditation to seven Southern education schools, including Spelman College in Atlanta.

In accordance with ncate procedures, these decisions were made by the 36 voting members of the organization's governing council and were based on the reports of an independent nine-member team that visits the schools and evaluates their programs against the accrediting organization's 24 standards. Several of those in leadership positions in the schools that were censured by ncate questioned the value of an endorsement by the national accrediting body.

"Frankly, an ncate visit to us is an incidental thing," said R.B. Kane, director of teacher education at Purdue. "We don't learn very much for the dollar. And the main reason we do it is to protect our graduates seeking jobs out of state. In general, we do not intend to let that tail wag our dog."

Added Albert R. Hawgerud, director of Seattle Pacific's school of education: "The [accreditation] process must do more to assist schools in their internal, long-range planning."

National Accreditation

Other education policymakers, however, are focusing on another facet of the accreditation process. In their search for ways to upgrade the quality of teachers, they have begun to look with greater interest at the idea of national accreditation of teacher-training programs.

While virtually no states or school systems currently require their teachers or administrators to have attended ncate-approved schools, the National School Boards Association is preparing a resolution that would encourage its members to hire employees from such nationally accredited programs.

The National Education Association, which contributes nearly 20 percent of ncate's annual budget, has also made hiring graduates of ncate-endorsed schools a priority in a new 24-point package of teacher-training reforms that it is beginning to push in state legislatures.

Meanwhile, the education school at the University of California at Berkeley, one of the nation's leading programs that has in the last year received a negative critique from its own parent university, has begun to reorganize itself and is close to appointing a new dean.

Based on a mandate handed down last January by I. Michael Heyman, the university's chancellor, the school of education has begun consolidating its curriculum in order to pay greater attention to research in the elementary and secondary fields. In particular, it will limit course offerings to three areas: language and literacy; science, mathematics, and technology; and education foundations and management.

In addition, the school has begun to include faculty from other areas within the university.

A number of professors from the science, mathematics, and computer-science departments have accepted joint appointments to the education school, according to James W. Guthrie, the chairman of the department of education.

Conversely, some members of the education faculty--those teaching psychology, for example--will begin similar joint appointments in other university divisions this fall, Mr. Guthrie said.

Greater contact between education faculty members and those in other fields within the university was an important component of the major goal of Chancellor Heyman's reorganization plan--to make the study of education at Berkeley "a major institutional effort."

'Institute of Education'

Another proposal made by the chancellor, the creation of an "institute of education" that would coordinate education research campuswide and increase Berkeley's contact with practicing educators, is "on hold," pending the appointment of a new dean, according to Mr. Guthrie.

Last month, a university search committee submitted two names for the chancellor's consideration.

Although the names have not been released by the committee, sources at Berkeley say that the two candidates recommended for the job are Bernard R. Gifford, currently vice president for student affairs at the Univerity of Rochester and a former vice chancellor of the New York City school system, and Robert H. Koff, the current dean of the school of education at the State University of New York at Albany.

Chancellor Heyman is expected to announce his choice later this month.

Vol. 01, Issue 42

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