The gloves are starting to come off in a squabble between the accreditor for teacher preparation programs and the main membership group for teachers’ colleges, the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education.
In the latest development, a member of the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation board of directors said that the group does not plan to accede to the AACTE’s request to review its accreditation standards—and intimated that such demands aren’t appropriate.
“CAEP is an accreditation group, not an advocacy group,” New York University professor Mary Brabeck wrote in an April 16 letter, which was addressed to the president and chair of the board of directors of the AACTE. “Teacher education accreditation has been criticized for being ‘in house’ and concerned with meeting the needs of its membership, which is seen by many as a conflict of interest. Having an independent accreditation process is a critical step in restoring the public’s trust.”
There’s a somewhat convoluted backstory here. Essentially, the AACTE passed a resolution at its annual meeting saying it had concerns with CAEP’s governance structure, its standards, and the costs of accreditation.
Until then, the organization had been publicly supportive of CAEP. It has, though, had qualms about some of the accreditor’s tenets—especially on student outcomes and on teacher selection. (The AACTE has opposed pending federal rules for teacher education on similar grounds, and supports recently introduced legislation that would delay those rules.)
Rather than dying out quietly, the AACTE and CAEP disagreement seems to have garnered more attention in the last few weeks. Witness:
- The Council of Chief State School officers, which has been working with states to improve quality control of teaching programs, wrote a letter to the AACTE which said its resolution “is of great concern.”
- Arthur Levine, the author of a critical 2006 report on education schools, wrote an op-ed calling on the preparation field to embrace the CAEP standards rather than trying to “water them down.”
- Kate Walsh, whose advocacy organization NCTQ has put out a series of equally unsparing (and equally controversial) reviews, accused the AACTE of putting its members ahead of quality control.
- The Deans for Impact, a group of education school deans that supports the CAEP standards, offered to help the accreditor address capacity concerns.
In her letter, Brabeck acknowledges that CAEP needs to keep in open communications with the programs it serves, but notes that “that is not the same thing as reviewing the standards with an eye toward revisions. ... I hope that you, as President and Chair of AACTE, will make it clear to the public and the profession that it is not your intention or purview to relitigate the standards we have all worked so hard to develop.”
Here’s the kicker: She challenges AACTE to make CAEP accreditation a prerequisite to membership.
Asked to comment on the letter, the AACTE more or less reiterated its resolution: “We welcome the opportunity to work closely with CAEP to build capacity within the profession and to measure ourselves collectively to the highest standards.”
It’s tempting to roll one’s eyes at this esoteric internecine debate, with all of its concomitant acronyms and jargon (an AACTE blog post about the situation talks of creating “dynamic tension” and “space for building capacity” through dialogue). But, as I’ve reported elsewhere, policymakers and the media—fairly or unfairly—are demanding more evidence that teacher preparation is capable of rising to the increasing challenges being put on teachers. And it’s also clear that states are generally falling short in their own duties to ensure program quality—an Education Week investigation recently found that rates of ed. program closure and/or suspension are very low.
For now, the bottom line is this: If the AACTE wanted a dynamic tension with CAEP, it’s safe to say that it’s absolutely gotten one.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.