Corrected: An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect name for the accrediting group, the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.
The board of the national accreditor for teacher education programs has unanimously approved a new set of standards that puts a much heavier emphasis on program outcomes.
Among other criteria, programs seeking the seal of approval from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation will be expected to show that both candidates and districts are satisfied with the quality of preparation and to document that graduates go on to boost student achievement.
Programs will also, for the first time, need to ensure each entering cohort of candidates averages a specified level of academic qualifications.
A panel tapped by CAEP completed the standards-writing process in July. Board members made minimal changes to that document, instead urging that the accreditor closely track the implementation of the new standards and tweak them as appropriate.
That sentiment was reflected by the field as well.
“This triumph of professional consensus is an important milestone,” Sharon P. Robinson, the president of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, said in a statement. “As providers navigate largely uncharted territory, it will be important to make any required adjustments based on observations and data collected from the field.”
Since the inception, in 1954, of a national accreditor for teacher education programs, the standards for winning the seal of approval have changed several times. Some of the revisions over the past 30 years include:
The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education approves standards requiring education programs to maintain specific student-faculty ratios and funding levels.
NCATE adopts standards requiring students in teacher education programs to have a 2.5 college GPA and to take a basic-skills test.
A revision to the standards emphasizes multicultural education and the use of technology. They also require programs to begin to assess candidate progress through the preparation program.
A rival accreditor, the Teacher Education Accreditation Council, is formed. Rather than reviewing programs using a fixed set of standards, TEAC requires programs to submit an inquiry brief outlining their goals, course of study, and proffered evidence. It then audits the programs to see whether they have met the goals.
NCATE approves a major standards revision, this time moving candidate performance to the forefront. Under the standards, programs must provide evidence that candidates successfully teach children, based on artifacts, performance assessments, and employer results.
NCATE and TEAC approve plans to merge, a process completed in July 2013. In the meantime, institutions can seek accreditation through either body.
The newly created Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation approves its first set of standards. Among other things, the standards look at the academic achievement of students taught by each program’s teachers, including evaluation results and “value added” measures where applicable. It also sets escalating entry requirements for each cohort of teacher-candidates.
—Stephen Sawchuk & Holly Peele
Already, some preparation programs have begun to take stock of where they stand in relationship to the standards. CAEP will begin accrediting all programs with the new standards in 2016.
At their meeting Aug. 28-29, board members also approved the selection of board Chairwoman Mary Brabeck, the dean of the Steinhardt School of Education at New York University, and Vice Chairman Christopher Koch, the Illinois state superintendent of education.
The final action on the standards last month marks a new era of sorts for teacher preparation, which has been under scrutiny from both nongovernmental bodies and the U.S. Department of Education.
In a sense, it is also the culmination of a gradual shift toward outcomes in national accreditation.
Teacher-educators and interest groups, nevertheless, have been deeply divided about some of the ideas that were eventually incorporated into the CAEP standards, such as candidate-selection benchmarks and the place of “value added” test-score-based approaches in teacher preparation. In fact, such issues helped to scuttle a 2012 federal attempt to negotiate new teacher-prep-accountability rules with the field, which ended in an impasse.
The Education Department’s version of those rules is purported to be still under review by the White House Office of Management and Budget.
Some provisions with no federal counterparts were also controversial, including the elimination of a stand-alone standard on diversity and the addition of a new “gold standard” level of accreditation reserved for only the best programs.
Nicholas Michelli, a presidential professor of education at the graduate school at the City University of New York, questioned the need for such a feature, though he added that he generally supports the standards.
“I don’t understand how you can be accredited and then special-accredited,” he said. “It’s like being pregnant—you either are or you aren’t.”
CAEP, formed in 2010 from the merger of two former accreditors, covers nearly two-thirds of university-based teacher-preparation programs. The organization went into full operation in July.
Whether accreditation will remain attractive in the future remains to be seen. Unlike in other professions, teacher-college accreditation is still largely a voluntary enterprise in the United States. While CAEP receives financial support from a number of entities, it is dependent on colleges seeking accreditation.
Board members at the meeting last month spoke openly about the implementation lift. Programs and the districts they serve will need to work in closer proximity than ever before, noted Blake West, a teacher and information-technology director at Blue Valley High School in Kansas.
“I think it will be up to us to show that the quality of the partnership shows up not merely on paper,” he said. “We have to think about the policy decisions we can make that will encourage those quality partnerships to be developed that really get the best teachers working with the candidates.”
The accreditor will also have to watch whether programs carry out the standards in good faith, said Camilla Benbow, the dean of the Peabody College of Education and Human Development at Vanderbilt University, who chaired the committee that crafted the standards.
Despite the intent of the rules, she said, “whenever you set up new policies, there are always ways to game the system, and people will figure them out.”
Coverage of policy efforts to improve the teaching profession is supported by a grant from the Joyce Foundation, at www.joycefdn.org/Programs/Education. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.
A version of this article appeared in the September 11, 2013 edition of Education Week as Teacher-Prep Accreditor Adopts Outcomes Standards