Following a blue-ribbon panel’s lead, the nation’s largest accreditation agency for education schools has called for a fundamental overhaul of teacher preparation programs.
A report commissioned by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) advocates a clinical model for training public educators and stronger partnerships between local school districts and higher education preparation programs.
“The system we have now is far too uneven,” said NCATE president James G. Cibulka. “We have a cottage industry of innovative ideas and practices. We need to approach the problem as a systemic one.”
Conclusions Not Supported
NCATE’s panel of educators lauded examples of higher education institutions, such as National-Louis University and Boston College, whose preparation programs place teacher candidates more directly and intensively into K-12 school settings. The report, released in November, seeks to model teacher preparation more closely after physician training, including more careful “matching” of education school graduates to appropriate school environments.
According to Cibulka, that approach will entail “more authority and shared responsibility for preparation of teachers” from local school districts.
George Clowes, a Heartland Institute senior fellow in education policy, noted the NCATE report comes as a long-overdue response to a 2001 Abell Foundation study by senior policy analyst Kate Walsh highlighting serious defects and the need for change in educator preparation systems.
“[She] found there was little research to support NCATE’s long-held position that taking extensive coursework was the best way to prepare prospective teachers,” said Clowes.
States Embrace ‘Value-Added’
Eight states have signed on to serve as pilot laboratories for the recommendations in NCATE’s new report. “There are different places with different kind of expertise and resources,” Cibulka said. “What’s underway in New York is different than in Tennessee or California.”
The work focuses on developing a wide body of evidence measuring teacher effectiveness after various kinds of preparation programs. Led by Louisiana, some of the pilot states are slated to use value-added student performance methods to help determine which education schools and programs are producing the best classroom practitioners.
“The game-changer is we’re now able to build on the student performance information that was missing in the past,” said Cibulka.
NCATE’s plan also incorporates support for lowering state regulatory barriers to provide for innovation and results-based accountability in teacher preparation.
The work is not just theoretical: States are beginning to move ahead with implementation plans. Jami Goetz, who directs the office of teacher licensure at the Colorado Department of Education, notes two preparation programs in her state already have experience using a clinical-based model. The other pilot states include Race to the Top winners Maryland and Ohio, as well as Oregon.
Effective Reform ‘Unlikely’
One critic lauds the vision of the report but believes the organization’s institutional values stand in the way of success.
“The NCATE report is good as far as it goes,” said Michael Petrilli, executive vice president of the Washington, DC-based Fordham Foundation. “But it’s limited by a fundamental fact: NCATE works with education schools, and education schools are—for the most part—unlikely to ever be effective teacher training institutions.”
The assets of higher education institutions are not properly focused on achieving effective teacher preparation, he says.
“Even NCATE admits it: Aspiring teachers should get on-the-job training, in real schools with real kids, with great mentoring from master teachers,” Petrilli said. “It’s not clear where the typical education school fits into that equation.”
Ed Schools ‘Firmly in Control’
Cibulka says preparation providers outside the traditional higher education model also participated on the panel and should play a role in the states’ work.
“I think there is a tremendous desire for change,” he said.
Nevertheless, Clowes says the panel missed a chance to provide a more competitive environment in educator preparation.
“The NCATE recommendations keep the education schools firmly in control of the teacher certification process,” he said.
Ben DeGrow ([email protected]) is a policy analyst for the Independence Institute in Golden, Colorado.
“Transforming Teacher Education Through Clinical Practice: A National Strategy to Prepare Effective Teachers,” National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education: http://www.ncate.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=zzeiB1OoqPk%3d&tabid=715
George Clowes, “‘Research’ Support for Teacher Certification Crumbles,” School Reform News, February 2002: http://www.heartland.org/schoolreform-news.org/Article/71