An external panel that includes several prominent critics of teacher education has been tapped to craft the performance standards for the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, the new organization’s leaders announced last week.
Among the standards under consideration: how programs ensure that candidates know their content; the programs’ ability to recruit an academically strong pool of candidates; their success in training teachers to use assessment data effectively; and the performance of their graduates in classrooms.
“We’re really going to up the ante with respect to how programs use data,” said CAEP President James G. Cibulka. “There will be a lot of focus on new sources of data: longitudinal databases, teacher evaluation, the teacher-effectiveness measures coming out of the [Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s] Measures of Effective Teaching Project, teacher-performance assessments.
“It’s not only a question of setting new, more rigorous standards, it’s also creating performance measures within these new databases to measure performance more effectively than ever before,” he said.
These individuals have been confirmed as members of the CAEP Commission on Standards and Performance Reporting. More appointments are expected.
Dean of Education and Human Development, Vanderbilt University, Peabody college
Superintendent/CEO, Columbus, Ohio, Public Schools
Dean, College of Education, University of Maryland
Dean, School of Education, Western New Mexico University
President, Teachers College, Columbia University
Dean, University of Kansas, School of Education
Tina Marshall Bradley
Associate Vice President, Academic Affairs, Paine College
Dean, Hunter College
Dean, School of Education, New York University
Dean and Professor, Rutgers University
Professor of Educational Psychology, University of Nebraska
Dean, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Professor in Educational Studies, Michigan State University, School of Education
Francis M. “Skip” Fennell
Professor of Education, McDaniel College, Md.
Professor of Education, Wheaton College, Ill.
President, State Higher Education, Executive Officers
Commissioner of Education, Kentucky Department of Education
State Superintendent, Illinois State Board of Education
Arthur E. Levine
President, Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation
Executive Director, Janus Education Alliance, Denver Public Schools
Chief Executive Officer, Baltimore Public Schools
President, American Federation of Teachers
Secretary/Treasurer, National Education Association
Executive Director, National Association of Elementary School Principals
Executive Director, National Association of Secondary School Principals
Thomas W. Payzant
Professor of Practice, Harvard Graduate School of Education
Executive Director, National Association of State Boards of Education
Parent Leader, Hillsborough, Fla., Public Schools
SOURCE: Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation
CAEP was created in late 2010 by the merger of two separate accreditors, the Teacher Education Accreditation Council, or TEAC, and the far larger and older National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, or NCATE. Both will operate until the merger is completed by the end of this year.
The commission tapped to write the new body’s standards will be chaired by Camilla Benbow, the dean of education and human development at Vanderbilt University, and Gene Harris, the superintendent of the Columbus, Ohio, public schools.
It is arguably a more diverse group than those currently serving in the governance structure of either of the preceding accrediting bodies. At press time, CAEP officials had confirmed 28 panelists on the commission and were working to secure several more—including individuals representing nontraditional preparation programs such as Teach For America and district-operated “residency” programs.
Its members also include math and reading scholars and two state education commissioners, along with a more traditional roster of teacher-educators.
And it includes among its ranks critics of teacher education, such as David M. Steiner, the dean of the Hunter College School of Education in New York City, and Arthur E. Levine, a former dean of Teachers College, Columbia University, and now the president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, which operates a grant program to improve teacher preparation.
Both men wrote reports in the mid-2000s that painted teacher education as a fragmented enterprise; Mr. Levine’s blistering 2006 analysis even suggested that NCATE should be replaced.
Their inclusion on the commission is an indication of how far the new body may be willing to stretch to maintain its relevance. Accreditors of teacher colleges, particularly NCATE, have struggled over the years to articulate the value of the process and to overcome a perception in the field of being too bureaucratic.
“The issue for me is rigorous standards that would define high-quality programs,” Mr. Levine said in an interview. “The problem with accreditation so far is too many weak programs and too many weak institutions get accredited.
“I’d love to see a much higher floor for accreditation and a much clearer sense of what it takes for continuous improvement after a program is accredited.”
Establishment of the CAEP panel comes during a period of great interest in improving teacher preparation, from outside reviews, to National Science Foundation-funded research projects, to federal rulemaking on sections of the Higher Education Act dealing with teacher preparation. Many of those projects are weighing similar measures.
Mr. Levine said that if the commission successfully sets stronger standards, it could make accreditation—currently voluntary in most states—more respected by attracting selective institutions that have forgone the process in the past.
But other observers aren’t convinced.
Frederick M. Hess, a scholar at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute, who has hosted—and debated with—Mr. Cibulka on accreditation at several public forums, said that the inclusion of critics in the mix was “promising,” but added that “it would be a tough slog” to come to consensus on detailed standards.
“The likelihood is that they’ll still wind up with vague, aspirational, process-oriented standards, as the alternative would likely lead to hundreds of institutions abandoning CAEP, or aggressively pushing back,” he said.
Mr. Hess, who writes an opinion blog for edweek.org, is not serving on the commission.
Drafting the new measures is, in any event, not likely to be an easy task. One of the major challenges could well be the specificity of any new set of performance standards, especially given the general lack of solid research evidence linking any one teacher-preparation approach to effective teaching.
For example, it is unclear how specific the panel will be in seeking to set guidelines for program-entrance requirements. And the question of which outcomes-based data might be relevant for accreditation is an equally thorny topic.
Many teacher-educators are putting their faith in new performance assessments, such as the one being developed by the Council of Chief State School Officers, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, and Stanford University scholars, that aim to let programs know when a teacher is ready for the classroom. Such tests require candidates to plan and teach a lesson, demonstrating proficiency in specific skills.
About 25 states are in various stages of piloting the CCSSO group’s assessment, even as other observers raise questions about its cost and relationship to student achievement.
And “value added” methods are perpetually controversial, even for looking at program outcomes. Two states, Louisiana and Tennessee, now release data on how the candidates from teaching programs fare in the classroom, and 12 more plan to do so in the near future. (“ ‘Value Added’ Proves Beneficial to Teacher Prep,” Feb. 22, 2012.)
“How the standards are written is as important as the commitment to raising the bar,” Mr. Cibulka of CAEP said. “Our knowledge base in this field is not as strong as we would like, but we want to create a system that allows us to build best practices and strengthen the knowledge base through empirical inquiry, so the next generation of standards can be more specific about some of these issues.”
CAEP’s own board will need to certify the performance standards before they go into effect. The accreditor will begin reviewing some 900 programs next year.
A version of this article appeared in the February 29, 2012 edition of Education Week as Teacher-Prep Accreditor Appoints Panel to Set Performance Standards