Teacher Preparation

Accrediting Body for Teacher Prep Streamlines System

By Linda Jacobson — May 19, 2004 3 min read
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Instead of requiring mounds of paperwork to document how colleges of education are preparing the next generation of teachers and educational leaders, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education has approved a streamlined review system that is expected to bring more uniformity to the process.

The new process also shifts to the accrediting body itself much of the control that NCATE’s member organizations previously exercised.

Institutions seeking initial or renewed accreditation by the council for the programs they offer will now each submit a 25- to 35-page report showing how their graduates are meeting the standards of the 19 professional organizations that belong to NCATE, such as the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the Council for Exceptional Children, and the National Association of School Psychologists.

The report will have to include the results of assessments used to evaluate how well students know their academic content, how well they understand teaching and learning, and whether they are having an effect on student learning after they enter the field. Those assessments might include portfolios, research reports, exams, and student-teaching evaluations. The colleges will also be expected to submit scoring guides or criteria used to assess students.

The student-performance data “will give us far more pointed information when we do go on the visit,” said Arthur E. Wise, the president of the Washington-based NCATE.

Although colleges will have flexibility on the kinds of assessments they choose to submit, they will have to include any tests required by their respective states, such as the Praxis II, produced by the Educational Testing Service in Princeton, N.J. At least 80 percent of the candidates must pass their state’s licensing exam for a program to earn accreditation.

In some cases, Mr. Wise said, “colleges will have to do some work to help us understand their grading or examination systems,” but “many will be on the cutting edge of figuring out how to assess student performance.”

A Web-Based System

The new process, which was approved by the 30-member NCATE executive board this month and is expected to go into effect Sept. 1, will also be entirely Web-based. Moving to an electronic system will allow NCATE and other interested organizations and scholars to compare data from institutions more effectively, Mr. Wise said.

The changes represent the recommendations made by a task force that began working on the issues more than a year ago, and they bring the organization’s efforts to move to a performance-based system to “full flower,” he added.

Control Shifts

NCATE also has an ongoing project with the ETS to set a common score or benchmark on the Praxis II, which would bring even more consistency and comparisons across states. (“Popular Licensing Exam to Get Solo Cutoff Score,” June 11, 2003.)

Moreover, the accrediting body will have more control over how the programs at the institutions are judged. Previously, each of the 19 professional groups had its own way of determining whether a college had met its standards.

“The institutions were challenged in the past because there were [so many] different managers explaining things to them,” Mr. Wise said. “They will like it that there will be greater consistency.”

David G. Imig, the president and chief executive officer of the Washington-based American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education, a member of NCATE, agreed that colleges had been pressing for more regularity.

“It became very, very complex, and places just got discombobulated,” he said. “In general, we’re pleased with the changes.”

While the member associations will still choose and train the people who evaluate the colleges, NCATE will now be in charge of the program review.

James M. Rubillo, the executive director of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, based in Reston, Va., and a member of the task force that made the recommendations, said that the new structure also eliminates the possibility of a conflict of interest that could arise when a college seeks advice about accreditation from the subject-matter association in charge of granting it.

“I feel that this is better for the [specialty associations], for the institutions, and it clarifies everyone’s role,” he said.

A version of this article appeared in the May 19, 2004 edition of Education Week as Accrediting Body for Teacher Prep Streamlines System

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