Who Approves the Schools that Approve the Teachers?
Here is how the system works. Teachers are certified and colleges and universities are accredited. Teachers are certified by the requisite State Department of Education. Students graduating from an NCATE or TEAC approved program are certified upon graduation and the passage of an achievement and skills test. Institutions of higher education (IHE'S) are accredited by one of two professional organizations. At least they used to be. As with Common Core, the effort to create a common curriculum for school children, CAEP (Council for Accreditation of Teacher Preparation) is an effort to combine the work of the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC). With the new standards, colleges of teacher education are submitting themselves for review. So far 21 schools have requested review and 17 have received approval.
As with all new approval processes there is much to criticize especially by the schools that did not make the cut. The new standards are notable for their strong emphasis on outcome data, including the academic achievement of the students in the program. There are two challenges to this standard. First of all, the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) has made some schools reluctant to release student grades to the evaluators. After all, once a student is over 18, even parents who might be paying the tuition can’t get access to grades without the permission of their offspring. Secondly, there are really no data at all that link good college grades to great or even good teaching ability.
The programs are judged on five standards. Each standard has multiple benchmarks. Although the CAEP website states that schools will have until 2018 to be in full compliance, the college reviewers are using them now. There is one other kink in the system. Many states, including Maryland, require the teacher education accreditation programs to be federally approved. The CAEP program is not. Unless the language of the state law is changed, schools accredited by CAEP in those states still won’t be able to certify teachers.
Oh, and there is one more little wrinkle in the prune. The incoming Secretary of Education for the US Department of Education is strongly in favor of charter schools and doing away with the Department she will head. Interesting times ahead. Stay tuned.