- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 16, 2000

The professional organization that accredits many of the nation's colleges of education called for "truth in labeling" yesterday, announcing new performance-based standards that overhaul the way teachers are prepared.
"It is no longer good enough for faculty to say 'I taught the material,' " said Arthur E. Wise, president of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) in announcing the reforms.
"The focus is on showing that the candidate can actually connect theory to practice and be effective in a P-12 classroom," Mr. Wise said. "Knowledge of subject matter is central and how to teach it is front and center… . This is a complete reorientation of our system."
The new standards, which emphasize performance over process, call on colleges of education to collaborate with elementary and secondary schools and to collect more and better data on their graduates, including scores on teacher certification tests and evaluations from their employers, Mr. Wise said.
They also call on colleges to use internal assessments including reviewing student lesson plans, observing students in the classroom or using videotapes to better appraise student-teaching skills. New teachers also must demonstrate the ability to effectively educate "diverse" student populations, he said.
Bob Chase, president of the 2.5 million-member National Education Association, said the NCATE standards will serve as a "blueprint for elevating teaching to the status of a true profession."
Research, he added, has shown that teachers who have received rigorous academic preparation and certification have a greater effect on student achievement. Deregulating teaching, allowing anyone with a bachelor's degree into the classroom to fill shortages, is "dangerous nonsense," he said.
"Today, virtually every state is raising academic standards and requiring students to pass high-stakes tests," said Mr. Chase, who heads NCATE's executive board. "But it is folly to raise the bar for student achievement unless we are also going to raise the bar for the preparation and training of teachers."
NCATE members include 33 national professional organizations representing teachers, teacher educators, and state and local lawmakers. To date, NCATE has accredited 500 colleges and universities that will educate about two-thirds of the nation's new teachers, Mr. Wise said. Several states, including Maryland, are mandating all of their colleges of education be NCATE accredited or eventually lose state funding.
Charles R. Hokanson Jr., finance director and research fellow at the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation in Washington, cautioned that colleges of education should not be the only pathway to the classroom for those considering a teaching career.
He fears the NCATE standards could give education schools "a monopoly on how you get access into teaching," setting up too many hurdles that will deter strong candidates in a marketplace that desperately needs their skills.
"My concern is that it could make things worse," Mr. Hokanson said of the nation's teacher shortage and distribution problems. "Our best and brightest college students and college graduates have lots of career options today, and they will pursue those other career options if the costs of becoming a teacher are too high."
Mr. Hokanson said the nation's children would be better served if pathways to teaching careers were kept open. Principals, he said, should be given the freedom and authority to select personnel to meet their own, specific needs.
"The more alternatives you have to bring in and to find the best people, that's how you are going to best improve America's classrooms," Mr. Hokanson said. "They don't all come from ed schools."

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