Teacher Preparation

NCATE Panel to Weigh Student-Teacher Fieldwork

By Stephen Sawchuk — January 05, 2010 3 min read
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In a sign of the increasing influence of teacher-preparation models that emphasize practical experience over coursework, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education has convened a high-powered panel to study ideas for updating student-teaching.

The recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Clinical Preparation, Partnerships, and Improved Student Learning, which will be unveiled this spring, also will serve as a template for the Washington-based organization to upgrade its clinical-fieldwork accreditation standard.

“We’ve put this on a fast track,” said James G. Cibulka, the president of NCATE. “We didn’t want to create a commission that would study it for two or three years.”

Since assuming the reins of the venerable accrediting body in 2008, Mr. Cibulka has unveiled a variety of initiatives designed to help teacher colleges experiment and spread best practices. Such initiatives include, for example, permitting programs to seek reaccreditation through an extensive research project with a partner school district. (“NCATE Offers Multiple Reaccreditation Paths,” July 15, 2009.)

The latest announcement signals that the group will be opening up its accreditation standards to changes for the first time since they were last retooled, in 2000.

Alternative Models

Blue-Ribbon Panel

Co-Chair: Nancy L. Zimpher, chancellor, State University of New York

Co-Chair: Dwight D. Jones, commissioner of education, Colorado

Sona Andrews, provost, Boise State University

Martin Blank, president, Institute for Educational Leadership

Tom Carroll, president, National Commission for Teaching and America’s Future

Marilyn Cochran-Smith, professor, Boston College

Larry Daniel, dean, College of Education, University of North Florida

Catherine Emihovich, dean, College of Education, University of Florida

Sharon Feiman-Nemser, professor and director, Mandel Center, Brandeis University

Beverly Hall, superintendent, Atlanta Public Schools

James Kohlmoos, president, Knowledge Alliance

Arthur E. Levine, president, Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation

Tina Marshall-Bradley, assistant to provost, Paine College

Monica Martinez, president, New Tech Network

Peter J. McWalters, interim program director, Council of Chief State School Officers

Renee Moore, national-board-certified teacher, Mississippi Delta Community College

Thomas W. Payzant, professor of practice, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Andrew Pruski, member, Anne Arundel County School Board, Md.

Charles B. Reed, chancellor, California State University System

Sharon P. Robinson, president and CEO, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education

Andrew J. Rotherham, co-founder, Education Sector

Jesse Solomon, executive director, Boston Teacher Residency Program

Christopher Steinhauser, superintendent, Long Beach Public Schools, Calif.

Dennis Van Roekel, president, National Education Association

Pat Wasley, dean, College of Education, University of Washington

Randi Weingarten, president, American Federation of Teachers

Kathy Wiebke, national-board-certified teacher, executive director, Arizona K-12 Center

Donna Wiseman, dean, College of Education, University of Maryland College Park

SOURCE: National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education

As part of its work, the panel will investigate a variety of ways to bolster clinical fieldwork—including simulations, case studies, and analyses of teaching—in addition to student-teaching that takes place in schools. The goal, Mr. Cibulka said, is to conceive of teaching as a “practice-based profession” in the mold of medicine or clinical psychology and to update training accordingly.

Once the panel has released its report, it will form a group to guide changes to the standards and the accreditation process. NCATE will then pilot the changes at selected sites, much as it is now piloting its new reaccreditation pathways with selected colleges of education..

The work could also open up fresh sites for teacher-college accreditation, which is a voluntary process in the United States. Bringing alternative preparation models with a strong clinical focus, such as teacher “residencies,” into the NCATE fold has been one of Mr. Cibulka’s goals.

The residency is a hybrid preparation model that typically gives teacher-candidates a year of experience working in an urban school setting, supplemented by coursework that is provided on site. Some of the best-known examples are the Boston Teacher Residency program, the Boettcher Teachers Program in Denver, and the Academy for Urban Teacher Leadership in Chicago.

Around 20 other sites are scheduled to come online as part of a $43 million federal investment in teacher-preparation programs. None has been accredited thus far. (“Teacher ‘Residencies’ Get Federal Funding to Augment Training ,” Oct. 14, 2009.)

And at least one state, Tennessee, is preparing to institute residency programs for all its undergraduate teacher-candidates, as part of a state initiative that includes NCATE.

In looking to such models, the NCATE panel could potentially set a longer, more rigorous bar for clinical fieldwork. The length of student-teaching is governed mainly by state law or by regulatory agencies, and typically requires traditional teacher-candidates to spend between 10 and 15 weeks as student-teachers.

Anissa Listak, the managing director of Urban Teacher Residency United, a Chicago-based network of sites that use the residency model, praised the NCATE announcement, but added that she hopes the panel will engage with the other core features of extensive clinical fieldwork, such as intensive monitoring and mentoring of teacher-candidates by experienced teachers.

“It’s not just the length of time that matters, it’s also what happens during that time that will better prepare teachers to work in our nation’s schools,” Ms. Listak said.

The NCATE blue-ribbon panel includes representatives from universities, the national teachers’ unions, policymakers, and practitioners, including one from a teacher-residency program.

“It’s going to have to be a collaborative effort on the part of a lot of stakeholders to make this shift, but I think it can be done,” Mr. Cibulka explained. “The time is right, and there is a recognition that we all need to do things differently and work more effectively.”

A version of this article appeared in the January 20, 2010 edition of Education Week as NCATE Panel Weighing Fieldwork for Student-Teachers

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