Teacher Preparation

Teacher Education Group Airs Criticism of New Accreditor

By Stephen Sawchuk — March 17, 2015 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

An apparent fracture has opened between two major players in the increasingly edgy teacher education field, with the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education criticizing the national accreditor for teacher colleges.

While underscoring that the AACTE is still committed to the success of the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, or CAEP, the board of directors of the teacher colleges’ group contends in a recently approved resolution that there is a “crisis of confidence” toward the accreditor.

“Specific concerns are related to the accreditation standards, process for accreditation, costs associated with accreditation, the capacity of CAEP to implement the accreditation system, and the representativeness of the CAEP governance structure,” the resolution says.

The resolution was not originally on the board’s agenda during its Feb. 26 meeting in Atlanta, and its passage apparently took CAEP officials by surprise. The AACTE represents some 800 members.

In response, officials at CAEP acknowledged that they’ve sometimes struggled to supply tools and timely updates to program officials trying to understand the accreditor’s updated standards for teacher colleges. But they reiterated what they see as the importance of staying faithful to the new, more rigorous expectations.

“It’s a heavy lift. It’s a real cultural change to say we’re going to judge ourselves on the data we produce. A lot of places are not finding it easy to meet these standards,” said Mary M. Brabeck, a New York University professor and the chair of CAEP’s board of directors. “And part of this means a change for CAEP. It has to step up in terms of the information it provides.”

At its heart, the debate underscores the two groups’ different tacks in addressing the challenges facing the field. Under the leadership of James G. Cibulka, CAEP has sought to walk a fine line between competing policy visions for teacher education. One, as embodied in rules recently proposed by the U.S. Department of Education, emphasizes greater accountability for programs that prepare teachers; another, largely the perspective of the AACTE, argues that applying too much outside pressure could detract from program innovation and integrity.

CAEP was created from the merger of two former accreditation organizations. In 2013, it approved a new set of standards that, among other tenets, require teacher colleges to produce evidence that they are training candidates to be effective in classrooms. The updated expectations will go into effect next year.

About 900 colleges are somewhere in the accreditation process, and CAEP has signed agreements with 16 states to use its process to supplement, or substitute for, their own quality-review systems.

Concerns Detailed

The litany of concerns in the AACTE resolution suggests some programs are beginning to balk at the changes before them.

Mark R. Ginsberg, who chairs the AACTE’s board of directors, said his organization’s members have found aspects of the standards confusing or ambiguous. They’re worried about having the cash to develop systems for producing the CAEP-required data in an era of tight higher-education budgets. And they want to be sure that CAEP’s governance represents the field’s diversity.

“They are not concerns generated out of whole cloth by the board of directors, but from listening hard and carefully to its constituents,” Mr. Ginsberg said.

CAEP’s governance structure has been in place for nearly five years, and it does differ from the one used by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, by far the larger of CAEP’s two predecessors.

Certain constituencies, such as the teachers’ unions and the AACTE, were delegated spots on NCATE’s governing panels. By contrast, CAEP now uses a nominations process and performs its own vetting.

As for the substance of the standards, Mr. Ginsberg highlighted CAEP’s selectivity requirements as an area that has created widespread concern among teacher education institutions.

The standard, which will be ramped up over time, will require all programs to recruit cohorts of candidates who have posted scores in the upper third on a nationally normed entrance exam. Long before the AACTE resolution appeared, teacher-educators expressed worries that raising admissions standards could disproportionately affect black and Latino candidates.

CAEP officials have commissioned a study of how the step-up in selectivity would affect the teacher-candidate pool and pledged to consider the results as it puts that requirement in place.

Some teacher-educators, meanwhile, said they’ve experienced frustrations negotiating the new expectations and noted several staffing changes last year at the accreditor.

“CAEP has been extremely disorganized throughout the entire process,” said Michael J. Maher, the assistant dean for professional education at North Carolina State University, in Raleigh, which will be among the first institutions to be judged under the new standards. “They changed the format on us while we were in the process of submitting our report, and when you attend their meetings, you get different answers to questions.”

CAEP officials agreed that certain elements, such as the accreditation handbook and exemplars for the standards, should have been released sooner. But many of those work products are now final and are being disseminated, they said.

Some contributors to CAEP’s efforts expressed disappointment in the AACTE resolution. “I was just very surprised by this resolution because [the AACTE] has been heavily involved,” said Terry Holliday, the Kentucky commissioner of education and the co-chair of the panel that developed the CAEP standards.

“A critical piece is that a profession should police itself, and I think that’s what an accreditation process does,” Mr. Holliday said. “I’m afraid if we don’t police ourselves, someone else will do it for us, like the Department of Education. They’re certainly trying to.”

A version of this article appeared in the March 18, 2015 edition of Education Week as Teacher Education Group Airs Criticism of New Accreditor


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
IT Infrastructure & Management Webinar
From Chaos to Clarity: How to Master EdTech Management and Future-Proof Your Evaluation Processes
The road to a thriving educational technology environment is paved with planning, collaboration, and effective evaluation.
Content provided by Instructure
Special Education Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table - Special Education: Proven Interventions for Academic Success
Special education should be a launchpad, not a label. Join the conversation on how schools can better support ALL students.
Special Education K-12 Essentials Forum Innovative Approaches to Special Education
Join this free virtual event to explore innovations in the evolving landscape of special education.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teacher Preparation Teachers' Unions Are Starting Teacher-Prep Programs. Here's What to Know
The Washington Education Association is pioneering a teacher residency for special education. Other unions are noticing.
10 min read
Patrice Madrid, left, leads a Functional Core Program for 3rd through 5th graders as part of a teacher residency program under the guidance of staff teacher Shannon Winthrow, right, at Star Lake Elementary in Kent, Wash., on May 7, 2024.
Patrice Madrid, left, leads a special education classroom for 3rd through 5th graders as part of the Washington Education Association's teacher residency program under the guidance of staff teacher Shannon Withrow, right, at Star Lake Elementary in Kent, Wash., on May 7, 2024.
Meron Menghistab for Education Week
Teacher Preparation These Preparation Programs Are Creating a 'Tutor to Teacher' Pipeline
A new pipeline offering an authentic glimpse of the profession is growing, despite patchy financial cover.
8 min read
Photograph of an adult Black woman helping a female student with an assignment.
Teacher Preparation Opinion 3 Ways to Give Preservice Teachers Meaningful Classroom Experiences
A veteran teacher offers guidance on how to support teacher-candidates.
Allison Kilgore Thompson
3 min read
A novice teacher shadow is cast across an empty classroom.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week + DigitalVision vectors + Getty Images
Teacher Preparation AI Is Coming to Teacher Prep. Here's What That Looks Like
One preparation program is banking on AI to transform new teacher training.
4 min read
Collage illustration of computer display and classroom image.
F. Sheehan for Education Week / Getty