Teacher Preparation

NCATE Commits to Streamlining Accrediting Process

By Vaishali Honawar — November 20, 2008 4 min read
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The nation’s largest accreditor of teacher colleges says it will streamline the process teacher- preparation programs go through to get its approval and make the process more cost-efficient.

The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education will also offer options within the accreditation process and promote rigor and inquiry, said James G. Cibulka, the president of NCATE, which accredits 650 of the 1,200 teacher programs in the country.

“In offering these options to institutions, ... we want to provide opportunities for continuous improvement” in the teacher programs, said Mr. Cibulka. The move would give institutions a chance to focus on best practices and carry out research and development on effective teacher preparation, he added.

The accreditor will also open doors to nontraditional programs such as urban teacher residencies, one-year programs that typically are independent of colleges and universities and have a strong clinical component.

NCATE’s board of directors, which issued the call for the changes, has charged Mr. Cibulka with coming up with recommendations by this coming spring on how to redesign the accreditation process.

Cost Efficiencies

NCATE has long been criticized for the expensive and extensive process it requires teacher programs to undergo to become accredited.

In recent years, it also has come under fire from some teacher education experts who contend that it has not helped improve the quality of teacher-preparation programs.

The accreditor has also lost some programs to its younger and only rival, the Teacher Education Accreditation Council, which offers a shorter, less costly evaluation. TEAC now accredits 80 programs, and 100 more are in the pipeline, according to its president, Frank B. Murray.

Since Mr. Cibulka took over in July, he has emphasized that he is eager to use the Washington-based NCATE as a lever for reform of teacher education programs. He has also talked of the need to more closely align teacher preparation with precollegiate education. (“New President Hopes to Use NCATE as Reform Lever,” Oct. 10, 2008.)

Under the new, reformed process, Mr. Cibulka said, colleges would have a chance, for instance, to recruit a demographically diverse pool of candidates or to recruit candidates trained to teach in low-performing schools.

NCATE officials say they estimate that the changes being considered would save colleges and universities about 25 percent in costs. Further, teacher programs would share data on candidates’ performance with NCATE on a continuous basis using a computerized reporting system, shortening the length of time required for accreditation.

The cost efficiency will result from a greater use of technology before and during the accreditation process and through streamlined institutional reports, officials said.

A survey of NCATE-accredited institutions this fall found that institutions want a more focused, streamlined process with less paperwork and more emphasis on adding value.

Working Together

NCATE and TEAC recently began work on creating a unified accrediting system with multiple pathways at the behest of a task force set up by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. A committee to design such a system is expected to start meeting next month.

“NCATE is moving forward with these initiatives, but at the same time, we are discussing initiatives with TEAC that could lead to multiple pathways,” Mr. Cibulka said.

Mr. Murray, the president of the Washington-based TEAC, said the new model being proposed by NCATE is not unlike that of TEAC, which, he noted, has always had a cost-effective model that encourages continuous improvement of accredited institutions.

He welcomed the changes.

When representatives of the two groups meet in December, Mr. Murray said, “there will be a lot more degrees of freedom than there were at the beginning, because NCATE on its own is now saying that we want to redesign our system anyway, ... and the principles that they’re saying guide their redesign are compatible with ours.”

University officials said the changes announced by NCATE would help focus teacher programs on key issues in education and teacher preparation.

“Incorporating continuous improvement strategies and options into teacher-preparation accreditation will ... promote further research and development on teacher-quality issues among institutions,” Richard Schwab, the dean of the school of education at the University of Connecticut, said in a statement.

‘Adequency Is Not Enough’

Mr. Cibulka said his organization is responding to a poor economy and a call from the policy community, which “is saying adequacy is not enough. They’re interested in how we’re driving the system toward excellence to address these state and national and ultimately local needs.”

The plan also dovetails, he said, with President-elect Barack Obama’s platform, which includes funding for teacher residencies with yearlong clinical preparation. NCATE, said Mr. Cibulka, is encouraging accredited institutions to partner with their districts to set up residency-like programs.

“The line has blurred between alternative and traditional providers. There are now high-quality programs that are outside colleges of education,” he said. “Many are now partnering with education programs, and we’re interested in working with them and hopefully working in a system of required accreditation that will drive us forward.”

A version of this article appeared in the December 03, 2008 edition of Education Week as NCATE Commits to Streamlining Accrediting Process

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