N.Y. To Require Accreditation for Ed. Schools

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Colleges and schools of education in New York state are taking a hard look at teacher-exam pass rates and accreditation requirements following the state's recent adoption of stricter teacher education standards.

The New York board of regents last month passed a set of reforms geared toward improving the quality of the state's teaching force. Among the changes, which range from strengthening professional-development standards to overhauling teacher-review processes, the regents now will require that all public and private higher education institutions attain accreditation for their teacher education programs by Dec. 31, 2004.

Under the new standards, the state also retains the right to shut down, or "deregister," schools of education where fewer than 80 percent of graduates pass one or more required certification exams beginning next year.

The mandate comes even as the regents move to make existing certification exams on teaching skills and liberal arts knowledge more difficult, and as they require all new teachers to pass a third exam that will gauge their expertise in a specific content area or specialty.

Adoption of the new standards should push universities that skimp on their teacher education programs, sometimes to the benefit of other disciplines, to wise up to the need to allot more resources to teacher training, said regent Saul B. Cohen, who served on the task force that initially proposed the teacher reforms.

"Right now, schools of education are cash cows for the universities," Mr. Cohen said. "If universities want their schools of education to be accredited, they're going to have to put more money into them."

Two Options

The regents' new rules allow schools two accreditation options: accreditation through a nationally recognized professional body; or accreditation by the regents themselves, which would be based on the recommendations of a professional-standards board that the state board is in the process of forming.

To date, only four of the state's 113 teacher education programs are accredited through the Washington-based National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, which is currently the only established professional accreditation association for schools of education. A second group, the Teacher Education Accreditation Council, also located in Washington, is planning to begin reviewing teacher training programs within two years.

Schools of education in New York have steered away from trying to obtain NCATE certification because of the direct and indirect costs of the process, said Elaine Sands, the dean of the education school at Adelphi University, a private institution in Garden City.

Elaine Sands

Despite the expense, which runs into the thousands, many of those heading education schools in New York understand that the regents' move to demand accreditation was "a long time coming," Ms. Sands said. "Schools of education need to meet a higher professional standard of excellence."

State Aid Sought

Still, some education officials expressed concern that the required accreditation and an 80 percent pass rate on teacher exams will be economically unattainable for the state's public institutions, unless they receive an infusion of new state money.

The situation appears particularly dire for the City University of New York. Only two of CUNY's 10 branches that offer teacher education attained an 80 percent pass rate on each of the required teacher certification exams in 1996-97.

School districts are depending on the teacher education programs in the New York state and New York City systems to help produce some of the hundreds of thousands of new teachers they will need to hire in the next several years, said Gregory Nash, the president of NEA-New York, the state affiliate of the National Education Association.

"If the state isn't committed to providing quality teacher education programs in their institutions, how can private institutions be expected to do it?" Mr. Nash said.

Like other aspects of the regents' plan that hinge on state funding, any increased aid for public institutions would require legislative approval.

Other highlights of the plan include:

  • A gradual phasing out of all temporary, or emergency, teacher licensures by 2003;
  • A requirement that all incoming teachers obtain a master's degree within the first two years of entering the classroom;
  • A provision that would provide every new teacher with at least one year of state-financed mentoring;
  • A requirement that all teachers certified after Sept. 1, 2000, complete 175 hours of professional development every five years to renew their licenses;
  • The creation of an incentive program designed to attract teachers to hard-to-staff schools through scholarships and a $10,000 bonus to certified teachers who agree to work for three years in high-need areas; and
  • The establishment of a teacher-review process in which teachers who are judged to be unsatisfactory will be given the opportunity to improve through a district-created teacher-improvement plan.

Vol. 17, Issue 43, Page 21

Published in Print: August 5, 1998, as N.Y. To Require Accreditation for Ed. Schools
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