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Accrediting Group Toughens Criteria for Training Teachers

The new standards call for universities to demonstrate that their students are effective in the classroom and to survey school districts on the performance of graduates after they're hired.

May 17, 2000|RICHARD LEE COLVIN | TIMES EDUCATION WRITER

The main accrediting organization that sets quality standards for the nation's colleges of education has issued new guidelines that require them to more rigorously measure the knowledge and skills of their graduates.

The voluntary guidelines require the colleges to gather test scores and other data to demonstrate that graduates know their subjects and how to teach them. The colleges also will be expected to survey their customers--local school districts--to see if they're satisfied with the teachers they hire.

In addition, the colleges will be expected to report on whether their graduates are able to help their students learn.

Arthur E. Wise, the president of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, said his organization's new standards "represent a revolution in teacher preparation."

"It is no longer good enough for [school of education] faculty to say 'I taught the material,' " Wise said. "Accreditation is based on results and . . . on showing that the candidate can actually connect theory to practice and be effective in a classroom."

The new standards, under development for three years, come at a time when the nation's 1,200 teacher training programs are under attack for holding lax standards and promoting ineffective teaching strategies.

A new federal law will require schools of education beginning in the fall of 2001 to report on the performance of their graduates on state licensing exams--with weak performers to face state sanctions.

But analyses of those exams have found them to be too weak to act as a bulwark of quality or professionalism in the nation's teaching force. As a result, California and many other states are adding new tests that focus on teaching techniques and reading instruction.

About 500 of the nation's schools of education are accredited under current standards, with 100 others seeking that status. In California, only 14 of 76 colleges that prepare teachers satisfy the accrediting organization's current rules. A dozen of those are in the Cal State system, which turns out the majority of the state's teachers.

Beverly Young, Cal State's director of teacher education, said the new voluntary national standards for accreditation run parallel to ones being developed in California that will be mandatory.

The Cal State system is under pressure to increase the number of teacher candidates, even as it attempts to raise its standards. Young said the campuses are trying to do that by offering classes at nights on weekends, online and through on-the-job internships.

"We're trying to do more numbers without lowering standards," Young said. Accreditation "is something [Cal State] vigorously supports."

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