The NCATE accreditation process has two primary components: the unit review and the program review. The unit is the school, college or department of education, plus any other entities on campus that prepare personnel to work in school—the organization with the responsibility for managing or coordinating all programs offered for the initial and continuing preparation of teachers and other school personnel, regardless of where these programs are administratively housed. The unit is reviewed by an NCATE Board of Examiners team that completes a site visit and evaluates the unit against the six NCATE unit standards.
A program is a discipline-specific component within a unit that provides a planned sequence of courses and experiences for preparing P–12 teachers and other professional school personnel (e.g. social studies educators, school psychologists). These courses and experiences often lead to a recommendation for a state license to work in schools.
Program reviews are submitted on-line, using a form available on the NCATE web site. The standards for programs are developed by the appropriate specialized professional associations (SPAs). Program reviewers evaluate the program report to determine if the program meets the appropriate SPA standards. Because NCATE Unit Standard 1 requires that the unit demonstrate that its candidates “know the content of their fields, demonstrate professional and pedagogical knowledge, skills, and dispositions and apply them so that students learn” this information becomes very important at the unit level.