In making its accreditation decisions, NCATE distinguishes between initial teacher preparation and advanced preparation programs offered at an institution. Initial teacher preparation is defined by NCATE as “programs at baccalaureate or post-baccalaureate levels that prepare candidates for the first license to teach.” They include four-year baccalaureate, post-baccalaureate, and master’s programs leading to licensure. Some initial teacher preparation programs are five-year programs combining undergraduate and graduate level work. Others are fifth-year programs for candidates with a baccalaureate in an academic area; fifth-year programs often include year-long internships.
Advanced programs are offered at the post-baccalaureate level to (1) licensed teachers continuing their education and (2) candidates preparing to work in schools in roles other than teaching (e.g., school psychology, reading specialist, administrator, counseling, and school library media specialist). Advanced programs often lead to master’s, specialist, or doctoral degrees, but some are non-degree licensure programs. Advanced degrees for the preparation of teacher educator and other higher education professionals are not within the scope of NCATE accreditation.
Initial teacher preparation programs and advanced programs for teachers and other professional school personnel may receive two different accreditation decisions following an on-site review. For instance, the initial teacher preparation level could be accredited while the advanced preparation programs are denied accreditation or vice versa.
Some institutions may be accredited only at one preparation level because they offer programs at only one level. When they decide to prepare educators at the other level, the new level must be included in the next onsite review of the professional education unit. The institution may request an onsite review of a new level in the years between the educator preparation provider's (EPP) scheduled visits; however, the two levels will be reviewed together on the EPP’s accreditation cycle in visits thereafter. The accreditation decision for the new level will be one of those that apply to a first-time visit by NCATE.