The NCATE accreditation process focuses on the professional education unit, which is defined as the administrative body at an educator preparation provider (EPP) that has primary responsibility for the preparation of school personnel. Most EPPs identify the unit as the school, college, or department of education. Some identify the unit as a coordinating council or other university- or college-wide governance entity or structure. Other EPPs identify themselves as the unit.
The unit is expected to coordinate all professional education programs for the initial and continuing preparation of school personnel, even though some programs may be located in other administrative units. In many EPPs, some programs are offered primarily in units other than education (for example, in the College of Arts and Sciences or the School of Music, Library Sciences, Agriculture, or Family Sciences). NCATE expects the education unit to coordinate these professional education programs and holds the unit accountable for the quality of these programs as well as those offered within the unit itself.
NCATE applies its standards to the professional education unit as a whole and not to individual programs. However, much of the data presented for unit standards is based on program data about candidates, graduates, and clinical practice. The unit is the administrative entity that designs, manages, evaluates, revises, and, from time to time, closes programs. NCATE determines whether the unit effectively carries out these responsibilities. Those preparing the institutional report for the NCATE visit should focus on the unit and refer to programs to illustrate how the unit carries out its activities.
The professional education unit must include in its accreditation review all programs in the EPP for the initial and advanced preparation of teachers and other professional education personnel to work in preschool through 12th-grade settings. All programs for education personnel that are offered off-campus, as alternate routes, or via distance learning must be declared on the “Intent to Seek NCATE Accreditation” and will be reviewed by the visiting team either onsite or through other means. The unit is held responsible for ensuring that all programs—no matter where they are administratively housed or geographically located—are of the quality expected for professional accreditation. This includes programs which, in whole or in part, are delivered by video, computer, or other means of distance delivery.
Some EPPs may already be accredited at one preparation level but have begun to offer programs at another level since their last NCATE review. Most commonly, an EPP that only offered initial teacher preparation programs at the time of its last NCATE review has added advanced-level programs. In this case, the EPP must undergo a first accreditation review of the new level in conjunction with a continuing accreditation review of the level that is already accredited.
Although accreditation decisions are based on conditions that exist at the EPP at the time of the BOE’s onsite review, this factor should not inhibit a unit from implementing new programs or structures in the time period of the review. It is expected that some new programs, policies, and practices may be in an early phase of implementation at the time of the visit. For example, a unit may have installed a new governance system with few results available to demonstrate its efficacy. Or a unit may have adopted new models to inform program planning and the evaluation of candidates, but no results of these evaluations have been compiled by the time of the visit. BOE teams will take into account such innovations even if they have not acquired a track record.