Teacher Education Programs

The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) commends Educational Testing Service on its report, Teaching the Teachers: Different Settings, Different Results.

The study found that many teacher preparation institutions are effective. A key study recommendation suggests using effective teacher preparation programs as models for less effective programs to emulate.

Policymakers are looking for ways to scale up school and higher education reforms. Creating lasting change is a huge challenge.

NCATE views its performance-based standards as a strong lever for reform of teacher preparation. In NCATE’s system, accreditation is based on results—results that demonstrate that teacher candidates know the subject matter and can teach it effectively. As institutions align themselves with NCATE standards, they are reforming their programs.But not all colleges of education are accredited. Currently, 656 colleges of education are accredited; approximately 500 more are not.

In 2009, NCATE announced a major redesign of its processes to help educator preparation programs move from adequacy to excellence. Programs are expected to use continuous improvement strategies and goals or engage in a Transformation Initiative which expects institutions to focus on urgent needs of P-12 schools and/or building the evidentiary base of the profession.

This study, Teaching the Teachers, did not provide information on NCATE-accredited institutions versus non-accredited institutions, but a 1999 ETS study of the same data did.

That study examined the results of 270,000 PRAXIS II test takers. It disaggregated the performance of graduates of accredited versus non-accredited institutions, as well as looked at the performance of those who had never completed a teacher preparation program. The ETS study found that graduates of NCATE-accredited institutions significantly outperformed graduates of unaccredited institutions as well as those who had never completed a teacher preparation program

The new ETS study does validate one of the most controversial NCATE standards—that on diversity. NCATE expects teacher preparation institutions to prepare candidates who can help all children learn— children from different cultural, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds. NCATE also expects institutions to strive for a diverse faculty and student body. The ETS study found that graduates of colleges of education with diverse faculties perform better than graduates of those institutions with few minority faculty members. For at least the last decade, NCATE institutions have had to meet these diversity expectations.

Certainly the finding that traditional college students perform better than nontraditional students on PRAXIS II comes as something of a surprise. Many policymakers hope that nontraditional adult teacher candidates can help fill the teacher shortage. While nontraditional candidates are very important, colleges of education need to have quality assurance mechanisms in place to ensure that such candidates do in fact know the subject matter that they will be teaching. The myth that well-qualified individuals abound who would enter teaching and be effective if only there were no preparation involved is simply that— a myth.

We hope ETS continues its efforts to align licensing examinations with professional standards, an effort begun two years ago in the elementary education area and which continues in the various subject matter disciplines. This alignment of standards for teacher preparation, P—12 student standards, and licensing examinations is long overdue, and will serve teachers and their students well.

One caution: NCATE recommends multiple measures of candidate performance for high stakes decisions regarding licensure. While content knowledge is necessary, it is not sufficient. Paper and pencil examinations do not provide adequate information on candidate performance in the classroom. Performance-based licensing systems that yield comprehensive assessments of candidate and new teacher performance must be developed. The study’s author concedes that PRAXIS II is a limited measure of teacher effectiveness. As a result, some of the study’s findings may have limited relevance for policy.

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