A set of proposed standards for teacher-preparation programs unveiled last week by the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation are leaner, more specific, and more outcomes-focused than any set in the 60-year history of national teacher-college accreditation.
Put together by a CAEP-commissioned panel of some 40 teacher educators from both traditional and alternative programs, representatives from advocacy organizations, and state and district officials, the standards would for the first time require accredited programs to adhere to a prescribed minimum admissions standard.
They would also require programs to consider “value added” test-score-growth data alongside other measures to examine graduates’ ability to boost P-12 academic achievement and to continue refining existing quality-assurance measures. Value-added methods attempt to isolate the specific contributions of teachers—or, in the context of teacher preparation, groups of teachers—to student learning.
The Washington-based CAEP is the newly created successor to two former national teacher-college-accreditation bodies.
Some of the proposed requirements touch on hotly debated topics within teacher preparation, and as such, the standards are likely to meet with divergent responses from the field.
For instance, some educators and researchers have raised questions about the validity of applying value-added modeling to preparation programs or worry that higher standards could have unintended effects, such as decreasing the number of minority candidates entering teaching.
As evidenced by a federal effort to write new teacher-training-accountability rules last year, which ended in stalemate, there are deep ideological divides about such measures, generally between those who favor an emphasis on outcomes and others who see such requirements as too expensive, burdensome, and error-prone.
CAEP President James G. Cibulka, however, said the panel ultimately came down in favor of the measures, in part because of a thin and largely anecdotal teacher education research base that has long plagued programs’ attempts to determine best practices.
“In order to improve the way we prepare teachers, we have to have better evidence of effective practices, ... and that means being able to link measures on outcomes and impact back to the characteristics of the programs themselves and the nature of the candidates who were admitted to the programs,” Mr. Cibulka said.
The draft outlines five standards, each of which has multiple subcomponents, and the type of evidence a program could submit to show that it has met them.
In brief, the standards would require schools of education to equip candidates with content knowledge and appropriate pedagogical tools; to work in partnership with districts to provide strong student-teaching practice and feedback; to recruit a diverse and academically strong group of candidates; to demonstrate that graduates are successful boosting P-12 students’ academic achievement; and to have a quality-assurance system in place.
As part of the recruitment standard, CAEP would require each program’s candidates to meet or exceed an average minimum grade point average of 3.0 and to average a score in the top third on a nationally normed academic-admissions test.
In addition, the commission recommends that CAEP collect and report some of the data generated on an annual basis, even for programs that are not being assessed for accreditation that year.
Teacher-preparation programs would be assessed on the degree to which they met a prescribed evidence threshold for each standard. Colleges would be put on probation if they fell below the threshold in one standard and be denied accreditation for falling below it in two or more standards.
No program, however, could be accredited unless it was deemed satisfactory in its impact on learning and on parts of the standard relating to quality assurance.
A fuller account of the proposed CAEP standards can be found on the Teacher Beat blog.
A version of this article appeared in the February 20, 2013 edition of Education Week as Accrediting Body Unveils Teacher-Prep Proposal