Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Who Should Guard the Gates? Evidentiary and Professional Warrants for Claiming Jurisdiction

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Who Should Guard the Gates? Evidentiary and Professional Warrants for Claiming Jurisdiction

Article excerpt

We live in an age of great concern for teacher quality and in which the calls for evidentiary warrants are loud and insistent. Thus, it is not surprising that questions are raised about who should certify teachers and whether--and under what conditions--those certifying agents should be subject to accreditation, the process by which an institution (a college or university) convinces the public and other institutions of its program's soundness and rigor.

Accreditation procedures within teacher education include those developed by individual states, as well as the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and, more recently, the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC). Those procedures can be understood as important elements in the professionalization of teaching, in this article, we explore the evidence available concerning the effects of accreditation, alternative conceptions of professions, and how those alternative conceptions might shape our work as teacher educators, including the mechanisms we use to monitor teacher preparation program quality.


Historically, communities certified teachers and, thus, no accreditation process was necessary. Each community decided who should be a teacher, and most everyone was primarily concerned with a potential teacher's moral fiber. Gradually, authority for approving teachers shifted from the community's spiritual leader to the state. According to Sedlak (1989), by the 1840s, the majority of U.S. teachers received their teaching certificates from local officials based on their performance on an examination. The first examinations were often short, oral tests given by community members that focused on the candidate's character; these evolved into longer, written examinations that assessed candidates' subject-matter knowledge. Occasionally, a few questions would be asked concerning pedagogy and child development. This certification system--which granted local officials the power to appoint teachers--was sometimes used inappropriately, favoring family relatives or political supporters. Over time, the practice faced growing opposition from the public, state administrators, and teachers, who argued that to raise educational standards, the state had to centralize control over the field by introducing state licensure requirements (Sedlak, 1989).

State departments of education grew rapidly during the first third of the 20th century, and normal schools evolved into teachers colleges (Labaree, 1998). A consensus about what constituted teacher preparation began to emerge within the so-called progressive educational establishment (Angus, 2001; Ravitch, 2000). And teacher certification became increasingly centralized. Frazier (1938, as quoted in Angus, 2001) reports the following data:

   To establish common expectations across the system,
   standards were developed. Professional organizations
   were formed and re-formed. In 1948, the
   American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education
   (AACTE) was formed from the merger of the
   National Association of Colleges and Departments
   of Education, the National Association of Teacher
   Education Institutions in Metropolitan Districts and
   the American Association of Teachers Colleges, a department
   of the National Education Association. In
   1952, AACTE, the National Commission on Teacher
   Education and Professional Standards, and the
   National Association of State Directors of Teacher
   Education and Certification created NCATE as the
   central body for accreditation. By 1959, five years
   after NCATE began accrediting programs, 17 states
   had included some provision for NCATE accreditation
   in their reciprocity agreements for teachers
   moving across state lines. By 1961, NCATE had
   approved only 342 of the then-1100 teacher
   education programs nationwide. (p. 32)

Thus, over a century and a half, we shifted from local control to centralization of teacher certification and to increased calls for accreditation of those agencies that certify teachers. …

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