Research Paper: NCATE Accreditation

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National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education

Accreditation for colleges and universities that prepare teachers and other professional specialists for careers in elementary and secondary schools are primarily handled by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). This body was founded in 1954 with the cooperation of five groups: the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification, the National Education Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and the National School Boards Association. NCATE was established as an independent accrediting body replacing the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education as the responsible agency for accreditation in teacher education.

Today NACTE is a nonprofit, nongovernmental coalition of more than thirty national associations representing the education profession at large. Member organizations appoint representatives to NCATE's policy boards who are charged with developing standards, policies, and procedures. Policy boards are composed of representatives from organizations of teachers, teacher educators, state and local policy makers, and professional specialists (Wise).

The Mission of NCATE

The goal of the NCATE accreditation process is to help all students learn by ensuring that accredited institutions produce competent, caring, and qualified teachers and other professional school personnel. The NCATE accreditation process determines whether schools colleges and departments of education are meeting the rigorous standards for the preparation of teachers and other school specialists. Accountability and improvement are intrinsic pieces of the accreditation process.

Another issue central to NCATE's mission is providing leadership for teacher reform. This is accomplished through standards that focus on systematic assessment and performance-based learning which encourages accredited institutions to engage in continuous improvement based on accurate and consistent data. This process ensures that accredited institutions remain current, relevant, and productive and that the graduated they produce have a positive impact on student achievement ("Professional Standards for the Accreditation of Teacher Preperation Institutions").

Accreditation Process

Institutions in pursuit of national professional accreditation begin the process by completing the intent-to-seek accreditation form. A date is then mutually agreed upon for a visit, usually two years in advance of the actual visit. The institution prepares a self-study demonstrating how it believes it meets NCATE's standards. Two months prior to the visit the self-study is sent to an examination team, who review the study and other available documents. The review team is composed of five or six members who arrive on a Saturday and leave on a Wednesday. The team spends the weekend examining documents and other evidence, such as student evaluations, curriculum, student work, minutes of faculty meetings and other pertained articles to substantiate the self-study. Monday and Tuesday the team conducts interviews with faculty, students, staff, and other stakeholders. On the final day an exit interview is conducted with the head of the education unit and the team reports its findings. The team then has thirty days to finalize its report and make recommendations, and the institution is given an opportunity to issue a rejoinder if it feels the team missed important information. All documentation is then forwarded to NCATE's Unit Accreditation Board who has the responsibility of making the final accreditation decision.

NCATE Standards

The NCATE standards are designed to measure the effectiveness of an institution's programs with respect to the profession's expectations for high quality teacher preparation. Every seven years NCATE standards are revised to ensure they reflect current research and state of the art practice in the teaching profession. Six overarching standards provide the framework for the competencies necessary to receive NCATE accreditation. Standard 1 addresses candidate knowledge, skills, and professional disposition and requires that candidates preparing to work in schools as teachers or other school professionals know and demonstrate the content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge and skills, pedagogical and professional knowledge and skills, and professional dispositions necessary to help all students5 learn. Standard 2 requires that an assessment system that collects and analyzes data on applicant qualifications, candidate and graduate performance, and unit operations to evaluate and improve the performance of candidates, the unit, and its programs is in place. Standard 3 entails the examination of the design, implementation, and evaluation of field experience and clinical practice so that teacher candidates and other school professionals develop and demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and professional dispositions necessary to facilitate student achievement. Standard 4 requires that candidates demonstrate and apply proficiencies related to diversity. The expectation is that experiences are provided for candidates that include working with diverse populations, including higher education and P -- 12 school faculty, candidates, and students in P -- 12 schools. Standard 5 addresses confirmation that faculty are qualified and model best professional practices in scholarship, service, and teaching, including the assessment of their own effectiveness as related to candidate performance. The extent to which faculty members collaborate with colleagues in the disciplines and schools and the method the institution evaluates faculty performance and facilitates professional development is also scrutinized. Standard 6 explores leadership, authority, budget, personnel, facilities, and resources, including information technology resources, for the preparation of candidates to meet professional, state, and institutional standards ("Professional Standards for the Accreditation of Teacher Preperation Institutions").

Current Issues

Starnes, Saderholm, and Webb report that though there has always been a disconnect between what students learn in their teacher preparation classrooms and what they experience in the field, this divide is growing more extreme because of the latest round of reforms brought on by No Child Left Behind. These reforms have had a significant impact on public schools and indirectly on teacher education programs preparing teachers. Decisions on how children are educated have shifted from local control to the state and federal level. Notably, programs such as Reading First, the emphasis on high stakes testing, and redefining what counts as researched-based programs has altered what happens in the classroom. The result is that education has become firmly grounded in behaviorism, especially in so called low performing schools that are greatly dependent on Title I and state resources. Classroom teacher are currently under pressure to "keep up" and to teach to and prepare for the "test." Consequently student teachers report that they seldom see what they are learning in class reflected in their field placements. Furthermore, because of this pressure it is becoming more difficult for student teachers to assume full classroom responsibilities during their field work. The authors note that in the past student teachers were expected to assume full classroom responsibilities for six weeks; presently they are lucky to have access for two weeks.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has stated that teacher-based preparation programs are in need of reform. His contention is that most teacher preparation programs are failing in two ways. First many aspiring teachers are not getting the hands on practical training in classroom management they need, especially for high needs students. Second, programs are not preparing teachers to use data to differentiate and improve instruction. Duncan believes that the future of teacher preparation programs should be modeled after medical education, based in clinical practice, with evidence-based knowledge interwoven with academic content and professional courses.

The Future of Accreditation for Teacher Preparation Programs

Currently there is a merger in the works between the two national accreditation bodies for teacher education. Stephen Sawchuk reports that underneath the terms of the agreement NCATE and the much smaller Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC) would join forces to serve as the sole accreitor for the field. In a joint meeting of their governing boards, held on October 22 of this year, the organizations agreed to begin work that would eventually lead to long-term changes in the structure and substance of teacher preperation accreditation. The plan calls for NCATE and TEAC to be united within two years. The new organization will be known as the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation. The intent of this action is to… [END OF PREVIEW]

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