Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

The Curious Case of NCATE Redesign

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

The Curious Case of NCATE Redesign

Article excerpt

Ironically, NCATE's strong movement to strengthen accreditation appears to have generated the same kinds of criticism and condemnation heard before the redesign. The authors sought to find out why by surveying 32 key participants in the NCATE redesign, and they share their findings here.

The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) is over 50 years old. It has developed and strengthened its standards and procedures primarily by involving the primary stakeholders in teacher education: teacher educators, teachers, chief state school officers, members of state boards of education, subject-matter specialists, and representatives of the public. Throughout its history, NCATE has been controversial. The controversy, however, says more about teacher education in the United States than it does about the workings of NCATE. We believe that it is because NCATE has continued to improve its practices and become stronger that resistance to accreditation has grown apace.

Concerns and criticisms are heard about accreditation agencies in every profession, but nowhere are they more contentious or of longer duration than in teacher education. While even the severest critics acknowledge that NCATE has had beneficial effects on teacher education, the organization has been charged with sins of omission and commission. Early in its history, critics alleged that NCATE was under the heavy hand of the National Education Association (NEA) and was not an appropriate agency to accredit schools of education. Charges were leveled about the quality of NCATE's standards and about the process by which institutional visits were conducted.(1)

As advocates of and active participants in NCATE, we have also been critics of its practices. As a result, we played a role in the redesign of NCATE that began in the early 1980s. We are students of the process and politics of accreditation. We offer here our analysis of the perennial griping that surrounds NCATE, including a summation of interviews we conducted with persons who have been actively involved in NCATE over the past decade. These interviews may be somewhat dated because of ongoing changes in NCATE, but we believe the attitudes and concerns that were expressed to us reveal much about the teacher education establishment. It is important to note that, since these interviews took place, NCATE has continued to make progress in bringing its redesign to full fruition. A number of indicators support our sense of that progress.

NCATE has reached agreements with 36 states whereby NCATE and state reviews are combined or reinforce one another in other ways. These agreements take a variety of forms, but they are all in the direction of linking required state and voluntary national accreditation. The fact that NCATE has successfully negotiated so many agreements is a major accomplishment - something that would have been unthinkable 15 or 20 years ago - and it provides strong evidence of a growing sentiment that all institutions of teacher education should meet higher standards. In some instances, NCATE standards are in effect state standards. Procedures now make it possible for NCATE and state teams to review programs jointly, using similar procedures. This is a major breakthrough. For decades, the separation of national accreditation and state reviews was a bone in the craw of teacher education. The two processes made for much confusion and duplication of effort.

Additional evidence of progress is found in the fact that NCATE expends a major part of its resources to train its boards of examiners. Gone are the days of large teams of teacher educators and practitioners gathering on a campus with little training or orientation. Understandably, these earlier practices led to concerns about the quality of assessments conducted by visiting teams. After several years of experience in training people to serve on the board of examiners and with periodic and appropriate changes in the roster of board members, NCATE has developed a core of persons familiar with its standards and procedures. …

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