New Teachers Face NCATE Litmus Test on Diversity

Published January 1, 2002

LAS VEGAS–The tight link between political advocacy of multicultural diversity and accreditation of the higher education institutions that train the nation’s K-12 teachers was on display during the recent annual convention of the National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME), held at the Riviera Hotel and Casino here last November.

Donna Gollnick unveiled new standards for schools, colleges, and departments of education promulgated by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). That Gollnick is both NAME president and senior vice president of NCATE suggests the close relationship the two organizations have developed.

Gollnick pointed out how multicultural diversity will be a factor in education schools implementing four of the six NCATE standards, while a fifth standard is entirely about diversity.

For instance, Standard One, which has to do with the “knowledge, skills, and dispositions” of teacher candidates, will have a “performance-based” evaluation to determine if would-be teachers exhibit what the examiners deem to be racist or sexist attitudes unacceptable to NCATE.

On Standard Two, dealing with field experiences, NCATE will insist this work be done “in diverse settings.” In Standard Five, faculty will be expected to “integrate diversity in their own teaching” by way of modeling what NCATE deems “best practices.”

Overall, the emphasis on diversity is so single-minded as to suggest intellectual conformity rather than diversity of thought.

Limiting Choice

The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF)–based at Teachers College, Columbia University and funded by the Carnegie Foundation–wants to see all teachers compelled to graduate from education schools that are NCATE-accredited. Such a requirement would severely limit choice in education for parents and teachers alike. The National Education Association, the nation’s largest teacher union, was one of NCATE’s founders and remains influential in its affairs.

At a NAME institute just before the start of a convention attended by 1,000 educators from all 50 states, Gollnick stressed repeatedly how diversity is the single yardstick NCATE will use above all to measure the work of teacher trainers.

What does NCATE mean by diversity? Here is its official definition, as stated in the glossary of its Professional Standards:

“Differences among groups of people and individuals based on ethnicity, race, socioeconomic status, gender, exceptionalities, language, religion, sexual orientation, and geographical area.”

Looking for Diversity

Gollnick explained NCATE would look for diversity not only in faculty numbers but in how professors teach their classes. NCATE seeks “performance-based assessment” so that, through videos or portfolios of work, teachers at all levels will have to show they are “teaching multiculturally.”

The NCATE standards repeatedly emphasize the necessity for teacher-trainers and future teachers to exhibit the correct “dispositions” with regard to diversity.

What does that mean? Another presenter, G. Pritchy Smith, an education professor at the University of North Florida, made the point more explicitly.

Lamenting the fact that 80 percent of teacher-education students are white, Smith said “many do not have the requisite attitudes and lifestyle diversity. I have yet to be convinced that a student who is racist can teach. Many say they do not want to teach minorities except as a last resort, if it is the only possibility to get a job.”

Meanwhile, 95 percent of professors of education are “white European-Americans,” and fewer than 5 percent have ever taught in an urban school.

Achievement Gap

“A monocultural faculty cannot do the job very well. We cannot teach about diversity in the absence of diversity. We need to reconstruct identities, values, beliefs, and lifestyles,” said Smith, a NAME icon for whom the organization names its Multicultural Educator of the Year Award.

“We should be more aggressive,” he concluded. “We should hire people who are anti-racists and encourage them to create a new world order. Social justice is the way to close the achievement gap. This should be the central ‘disposition.'”

Smith commended long lists of books and other curricular materials to teach teachers to value the kinds of diversity valued by NCATE and NAME. Among the recommended works were ones sympathetic to black English or Ebonics, the special needs of gay and lesbian students, and bilingual education to help children retain their non-English first language.

Elevating Fact Over Feeling

While saying much about the differences known as diversity, the new NCATE standards have little to say about raising student achievement. That could be because the view of NCATE accreditors pretty much corresponds with the dominant view of the NAME conference: that standardized tests are unfair impediments to diversity.

For example, keynote speaker Peggy McIntosh, associate director of the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women, criticized tests for a “get-it-right syndrome” that elevates fact over feeling.

“African-Americans learn holistically,” elaborated Smith. “They are not so concerned about specific little details. Most white kids have respect for validated knowledge. In other cultures, it has to feel like the truth.”

So if the professional multiculturalists have their way, there can never be meaningful intellectual standards tied to a common core curriculum. There can only be standards for celebrating and accentuating cultural differences. If NCATE and NAME get their way, this is how all future teachers will teach.

Robert Holland is a senior fellow at the Lexington Institute, a public policy think tank in Arlington, Virginia. His email address is [email protected].

For more information . . .

NCATE’s January 2001 statement of “Professional Standards for the Accreditation of Schools, Colleges, and Departments of Education” is available at

J.E. Stone discusses NCATE standards at length in “The National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education: Whose Standards?” available through the Education Consumers Web site at