Two representatives of Florida's system of nine public universities share their views on how accreditation fits into the process of preparing the best educators possible.
We have been asked, as representatives of Florida's system of nine public universities, to share a few of our thoughts about teacher education and, particularly, about how accreditation fits into the process of preparing the best educators possible. We are pleased to have the opportunity to do so.
We have chosen a format in which we respond to a series of questions that capture some of the major concerns regarding accreditation in the field of education. These may not be the best questions, and we certainly do not have the only answers. However, these questions do touch on the burning issues in Florida's education system today as it continues to face very difficult economic times and ever-increasing social challenges.
Q: Some people argue that accreditation of teacher education programs is unnecessary. Why should accreditation be sought at all?
A: Let us begin with two of our favorite subjects: money and quality. Last year Florida's state university system invested more than $76 million in its colleges of education. That is an enormous sum, and it is imperative that we receive a return on that investment in the form of high-quality programs capable of producing acceptable numbers of competent graduates ready to teach in Florida's public schools. This is a tremendous challenge for Florida. We have made great strides in producing more and better Florida-trained teachers; still, there is a great deal of work to be done. The initial question, then, is one of investment: are we producing a larger and a better-prepared work force with the dollars that we have?
One tool for evaluating our investment is the accreditation process. If programs can prove their viability through a national accrediting process involving peer review, then we can begin to feel comfortable that high-quality programs are in place.
Q: What about the position that some academic programs are above review?
A: This may be the belief in some other states; happily, it is not the case in Florida's state university system. Our own program review process reviews each and every one of our academic programs, including those offered in our law schools and medical schools.
It is especially the case that we need accreditation in the field of education, and there are at least two reasons for this. First, education should be viewed as a professional program. We need to ensure that our clients - public schools, parents, and the young people of Florida in particular - are going to receive the best service that can possibly be afforded. Educators are professionals, and they need to be seen as such. Scrutiny by a national accrediting body with impeccable standards and the courage to call things the way it sees them can help in this regard.
Second, there is a widespread perception that our country's education system is not working as well as it should. As educators of educators, we need to be ready to respond to that perception. The greater the public interest and the greater the doubt as to how well we are performing, the more important it is to submit ourselves to the best peer review possible, to prove our worth, and to go on.
Q: You used the term "investment." How does the allocation of resources fit into the picture?
A: Education is the most humane and honorable of businesses - but it is a business, and it should be treated as one, with the full complement of consequences. When good ideas work in education, they should be rewarded. When the outcomes are not worth the investment, then the resources devoted to them should be reallocated to the implementation of new ideas or to existing areas of need.
The problem that we face in Florida is that we do not have an initial investment that is sufficient to permit us to use a rational, businesslike system of reward. …