School & District Management

Kentucky Dean to Be Next President of Accrediting Group

By Scott J. Cech — May 12, 2008 3 min read
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James G. Cibulka, the dean of the college of education at the University of Kentucky, will become the next president of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. The Washington-based group, which accredits more than half the teacher colleges in the nation, made the announcement last week.

Mr. Cibulka, 64, will replace Arthur E. Wise, a high-profile former RAND Corp. education researcher who last fall announced his upcoming retirement, on July 1.

“I am going to focus on improving the accreditation process and on making it more effective,” Mr. Cibulka said in an interview. “We’re going to maintain and strengthen rigor as we proceed.”

He also called for a universal accreditation system of the kind used in the fields of law and medicine. A task force appointed by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education is currently considering such a system.

NCATE, which was founded in 1954 and long held a virtual monopoly on teacher education accreditation, has recently felt competitive pressure. The Teacher Education Accreditation Council, formed in 1997, now accredits about 50 teacher colleges, including at the University of Virginia.

“We’ll see what the future holds,” said Mr. Cibulka. “We’re open to new possibilities. I believe the field would be better served with a unified system of teacher preparation.”

“He’s certainly saying the right things,” said Arthur E. Levine, the former president of Teachers College, Columbia University, and now the president of the Princeton, N.J.-based Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. Mr. Levine suggested in a 2006 report that NCATE be replaced with a new accrediting body. (“Prominent Teacher-Educator Assails Field, Suggests New Accrediting Body in Report,” Sept. 20, 2006).

Performance Will Matter

“Historically, NCATE has established a low floor for accreditation,” said Mr. Levine. He praised Mr. Cibulka’s talk of unity and rigor, but noted, “What’s going to matter is the performance.”

Frank B. Murray, the Teacher Education Accreditation Council’s president, called Mr. Cibulka “a wonderful choice.”

“He has a balanced view of our field, and I believe he and I will enjoy working together to make common cause in advancing the quality and effectiveness of accreditation in teacher education,” Mr. Murray said in an e-mail. “Art Wise set a high standard for NCATE’s role in the country, and Jim is certainly up to the task.”

NCATE’s new leader was formerly an associate dean and professor in the University of Maryland’s college of education, and prior to that was a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he established the department of community education. He also served as editor of Educational Administration Quarterly. Mr. Cibulka started his career as an administrator for the Chicago board of education and as a teacher and administrator in the Model City Community Schools Program in Duluth, Minn.

A native of Milwaukee, Mr. Cibulka graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College in 1966 and earned his doctorate in educational administration from the University of Chicago in 1973, with an emphasis in education policy and political science.

Mr. Wise’s 18-year tenure at NCATE has been marked by the group’s enhanced reputation in enhancing teacher-quality standards, observers say.

The accrediting body moved in 2001 to outcomes-based standards, mandating that institutions seeking accreditation assess former students’ performance once they become in-service teachers, and use the results to improve the colleges’ programs.

Although most states do not mandate national accreditation for teacher colleges, NCATE has established partnerships with 48 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia, each of which has either adopted the group’s standards or aligned them with its own.

A version of this article appeared in the May 21, 2008 edition of Education Week as Kentucky Dean to Be Next President of Accrediting Group

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