The first major test of a new—and some say tougher—set of national accreditation standards for teacher education ended with 17 of the 21 programs that applied passing the test.
The long-awaited reviews were the first by the the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation, or CAEP, which was conceived in 2010 to unite the embattled field behind one set of standards. CAEP unveiled its ambitious standards for program accreditation in 2013. And while national accreditation of teacher-preparation programs is not mandatory in many states, 29 states have so far said they plan to use CAEP to evaluate the quality of their programs. (The 21 programs that applied for this round came from 14 states.)
Besides the 17 programs that gained full accreditation for seven years, three were given “probationary accreditation” for failing to meet one of the five required standards. Those three programs have two years to demonstrate that the failed standard has been met.
Out of 21 programs seeking accreditation under CAEP’s new standards, these 17 programs met all requirements and gained accreditation:
School of Education, Anderson University | Indiana
College of Education, Boise State University | Idaho
College of Education, Dakota State University | Madison, S.D.
College of Education and Allied Health Professions, Fontbonne University | St. Louis, Mo.
Gleazer School of Education, Graceland University | Lamoni, Iowa
Cannon-Clary School of Education, Harding University | Searcy, Ark.
School of Education, High Point University | Guilford, N.C.
College of Education, Madonna University | Livonia, Mich.
College of Education, Health, and Society, Miami University | Oxford, Ohio
Department of Education, Millsaps College | Jackson, Miss.
College of Education, Saginaw Valley State University | Center, Mich.
Professional Education Unit, State University of New York College at Brockport | New York
School of Health Sciences and Education, Truman State University | Kirksville, Mo.
Judith Herb College of Education, University of Toledo | Ohio
School of Education, University of Evansville | Indiana
College of Education, University of Houston | Texas
Department of Education, Wake Forest University | Winston Salem, N.C.
These three programs received “probationary accreditation” for failing to meet one of the five standards on which programs are judged. They have two years to demonstrate through a follow-up visit that they’ve remedied the problem.
College of Education, University of Utah | Salt Lake City, Utah
Department of Education, Randolph-Macon College | | Ashland, Va.
College of Education and Human Services, Central Michigan University | Mount Pleasant, Mich.
This program received “accreditation with stipulation” because it failed to meet “one or more components” of standard 4, which governs program impact. It has two years to provide proof through a “document review” that the program has fixed the problem and meets all parts of the standard.
Fredrikson School of Education, University of Sioux Falls | S.D.
Source: Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation
Another program—the one at the University of Sioux Falls, in South Dakota—received “accreditation with stipulation” because it failed to meet “one or more components” of a standard. (For a full list of program outcomes, see text box.)
The new standards are notable for their strong emphasis on outcome data, including the academic achievement of students taught by each program’s teachers.
“The most challenging part of the process for many programs is figuring out how best to collect the data they need, given that they may not even have access to that data,” said Kim Walters-Parker, the chairwoman of the CAEP accreditation council.
Some states are forbidden to provide the data, according to Walters-Parker, because of concerns about the privacy of students and teachers.
“That’s a challenge,” she said, “but we’re hopeful that going forward we can convince states to give us better data so we can help them get better teachers.”
Education schools are judged on five standards, and each standard contains multiple benchmarks. Fail to meet just one of those benchmarks, and CAEP withholds its accreditation stamp of approval for two years, until the program can provide proof that it has remedied the problem.
That’s what happened to the education college at the University of Utah, in Salt Lake City. CAEP gave the program “probationary accreditation” for failing to meet one part of Standard 4. The goal of that standard is to measure graduates’ impact in the classroom. A program must provide K-12 students’ test scores, along with evidence that graduates and graduates’ employers are satisfied with the preparation the teachers received. The graduates’ satisfaction might be shown through surveys they complete about how prepared they were for the realities of teaching, while employer satisfaction might be shown through retention data.
The University of Utah’s college of education provided evidence for all that. But it failed to meet one part of Standard 4: “indicators of teaching effectiveness.” That part requires programs to show “through structured validated observation instruments and/or student surveys, that completers effectively apply the professional knowledge, skills, and dispositions that the preparation experiences were designed to achieve.” That would mean sending a professor to the graduates’ classrooms, either to observe the graduates’ teaching or elicit feedback from the graduates’ students through a survey.
“I’ll be honest with you,” said Mary Burbank, an assistant dean for teacher education at the University of Utah, “to miss the entire standard when we have provided data that shows we meet multiple benchmarks, it’s frustrating.”
Burbank also noted that CAEP’s website allows until 2018 to phase in the standard’s requirements. In light of that language, she has requested that CAEP review its decision.
“To physically go to schools and observe graduates and gather data from students about our grads, this is a process that has to gradually unfold,” she said. “It requires cooperation of districts, schools, the university, FERPA [the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act] compliance, as well as institutional review board clearance.”
What’s more, Burbank said CAEP should have told the program it was not meeting the standard in its correspondence during the accreditation process. She said the review was complete in January, and the program should have received feedback from CAEP in a month, but did not receive a report until late September.
Fusing Two Systems
Walters-Parker said she couldn’t discuss the cases of individual programs, but added that the accreditor has been working to streamline its processes and improve training for its reviewers and is starting to see success.
“We’re dealing with a uniform system going forward,” she said, referring to the division created when, in 2010, the merger of the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, or NCATE, and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council, or TEAC, formed CAEP. “So now, we have one set of procedures, one set of training, which will help CAEP with the workload and help turn around reports, get feedback to [educator preparation providers], and other communication more efficiently.”
Donna L. Wiseman, the dean of the college of education at the University of Maryland, served on the committee when CAEP got its start. She said the university’s education program is now preparing for its accreditation review from CAEP, which will take place in 2018, and so far, her view is that CAEP continues to improve.
Yet while Wiseman is confident that her program will pass muster, she doesn’t necessarily agree with all the standards on which it will be judged.
One standard that Wiseman takes issue with is Standard 3, which requires a cohort of program candidates to collectively meet an average 3.0 GPA by graduation. While she said the University of Maryland’s program can meet the requirement, she considers the benchmark arbitrary.
“I would feel much better about this requirement if there were research to support it,” she said. “You can have a high GPA, but then find it overwhelming to have to respond to 25 little people in front of you. And there are many good examples of students with low GPAs who turned out to be great teachers.”
Burbank agreed that the standards should be backed by research, and said the part of standard 4 that the University of Utah’s program failed—the part that requires the program to observe its teachers—is not backed by research.
“The basic purpose is to look systematically and thoughtfully at programs,” she said, “so if we can peel away the minutiae and tedium of data collection and look more thoughtfully at programs, we might ask: Do those forms of data equate with quality?”
Walters-Parker of CAEP said the group has no immediate plans to revise any of the standards, but she doesn’t rule it out entirely. “It’s important to the field that people know what to expect and that we keep the process as consistent as possible,” she said. “But we also understand that there will be times when things will have to be revised.”
While CAEP is working out the kinks in its processes, it has one big problem to contend with: The accreditor has not yet earned recognition from the U.S. Department of Education.
CAEP is working on it, but it will take years, according to Wiseman. That causes trouble for the University of Maryland’s program because the state requires that the teacher-prep accreditor be federally approved.
“We’re working with the state department of education and with CAEP to fix this,” Wiseman said. “We have to change the language of the law; otherwise, we can’t certify teachers.”
A version of this article appeared in the December 14, 2016 edition of Education Week as 17 Teacher-Prep Programs Meet New Accreditation Bar