Arthur E. Wise, who heads the group that accredits more than half the teacher colleges in the nation, plans to retire next June.
During his 17 years as the president of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, the group has seen a dramatic growth in its reputation as a force for greater quality in such programs, observers say. They point out that although a majority of states do not mandate national accreditation for teacher colleges, NCATE has forged partnerships with 48 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia, all of which have either adopted the group’s standards or aligned them with their own.
“In the time that he’s been there, he’s been able to bring some professional consensus and consistency,” Joseph A. Aguerrebere, the president of the Arlington, Va.-based National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, said of Mr. Wise. “He’s had a consistent message on how to build the profession, and you can document that he has made progress in the arena.”
A prominent education researcher, Mr. Wise left the RAND Corp. to take over NCATE in July 1990.
NCATE’s move in 2001 to outcomes-based standards—requiring institutions seeking accreditation to assess their students’ performance once they are running their own classrooms, and use the results to refine and improve the colleges’ programs—is widely seen as one of the most significant initiatives for reforming teacher education in recent years.
Mr. Wise, 65, cited that change as one of his group’s most important achievements. The policy shift, he said, required a major redesign of instruction and assessment practices at accredited institutions.
“The soundness of that move has been validated by the fact that virtually all accreditation agencies are moving in this direction,” he said.
Frank B. Murray, the president of the Teacher Education Accreditation Council, the only other national accreditor and a rival to NCATE, said Mr. Wise had “positioned NCATE where the action was.”
Mr. Murray said that when he first became dean of the University of Delaware’s college of education in 1979, he was told NCATE had a low standing among accreditors. “It is a tribute to Art’s leadership that NCATE’s standing is now well above where it was,” he said. “Through his leadership, NCATE became a major influence in educational policy and the reform of teacher education, where before it had only a marginal influence.”
‘Building a Profession’
The Washington-based NCATE has come under fire over the years, however, including from colleges that opted out of its accreditation and from experts in the field like Arthur E. Levine, the former president of Teachers College, Columbia University, who recommended in a report last year that NCATE be replaced with a new accrediting body.
“I don’t know how anybody in that position can avoid criticism,” Mr. Aguerrebere said of the NCATE president. “But if you were to identify one person in the country who has contributed to the vision of building a profession, Art has to be the person.”
“He has been a strong advocate for quality,” said Mary E. Diez, the dean of the graduate program of education at the NCATE-accredited Alverno College in Milwaukee and a former member of NCATE’s board of directors.
She pointed to Mr. Wise’s work, along with that of other teacher education experts, to align the standards for teacher preparation with teacher licensing, teacher testing, and national-board certification as being extremely significant.
Mr. Wise, who said he wants to spend his retirement pursuing such favorite activities as “hiking, biking, and kayaking,” said he hopes that colleges of education recognize the importance of accreditation as a vehicle for accountability and reform.
“It remains remarkable that when you walk into a college campus,” Mr. Wise said, “all professional schools are nationally accredited with the notable exception of the college of education, which has a choice.”
No successor has been chosen.
A version of this article appeared in the September 12, 2007 edition of Education Week