WASHINGTON, DC—Studies show that teacher quality is the most important factor in P–12 student achievement. But how do we know that our children’s teachers enter the classroom ready to help them learn? Professional accreditation is one way to ensure the public that schools of education are graduating well-qualified teachers ready for today’s classrooms. Since successfully attaining initial accreditation in 2005, the University of Mount Union’s Teacher Education Program has proven its commitment to producing quality teachers for our nation’s children by achieving continued accreditation in April of 2010 under the performance-oriented standards of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), the organization for professional accreditation of teacher education.
NCATE currently accredits 623 institutions which produce two-thirds of the nation’s new teacher graduates each year. Ninety-nine institutions are candidates or precandidates for accreditation.
NCATE-accredited schools must meet rigorous standards set by the profession and members of the public. Teacher candidates must have in-depth knowledge of the subject matter that they plan to teach as well as the skills necessary to convey it so that students learn. The college or university must carefully assess this knowledge and skill to determine that candidates may graduate. The institution must have partnerships with P-12 schools that enable candidates to develop the skills necessary to help students learn. Candidates must be prepared to understand and work with diverse student populations. University faculty must model effective teaching practices. And the school, university, or department of education must have the resources, including information technology resources, necessary to prepare candidates to meet new standards.
NCATE revises its standards every five years to incorporate best practice and research in order to ensure that the standards reflect a consensus about what is important in teacher preparation today. In the past decade, NCATE has moved from an accreditation system that focused on curriculum and what teacher candidates were offered, to a data-driven performance-based system dedicated to determining what candidates know and are able to do. The new system expects teacher preparation institutions to provide compelling evidence of candidate knowledge and skill in the classroom. Multiple types of performance assessment are expected throughout the program of study. Candidate qualifications are assessed upon entry, and candidate competence is assessed throughout the program as well as prior to student teaching/internship work, and before completion of the program.
Meeting NCATE accreditation standards also helps institutions prepare new teachers for new, more rigorous licensing standards in many states. NCATE accreditation standards incorporate the model state licensing principles developed by a task force of the Council of Chief State School Officers.
According to Dr. Peter Schneller, co-chair of Mount Union's department of education, the process for NCATE accreditation has been challenging and rewarding. "A plethora of well coordinated work has gone into simply preparation for accreditation," Schneller said. "Throughout the process the entire university campus community was involved. Getting the accreditation is a validation of what we at Mount Union already know - that our graduates are well prepared for the challenges of the classroom and beyond. We can rest assured that they will take great care to teach content knowledge and model appropriate professional behavior to their students."
The Teacher Education Program’s mission statement is derived from the vision expressed in the University’s mission statement, but it offers a version more particular to the preparation of teacher candidates. “The Teacher Education Program (TEP) prepares candidates for meaningful careers in the field of education. Building upon a solid liberal arts foundation, the Teacher Education Program assists candidates in developing knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to become effective and caring teachers in an ever-changing society. The University of Mount Union’s candidates are prepared to become reflective, lifelong learners.” The key elements in the Teacher Education Program theme Caring Teachers Live What They Believe are the descriptors competent, capable, and caring.
The U. S. Department of Education recognizes NCATE as a specialized accrediting body for schools, universities, and departments of education. NCATE is composed of more than 30 professional and policymaker organizations representing millions of Americans committed to quality teaching. It was founded in 1954 by the teaching profession and the states. NCATE continues its mission today: the profession and the states working together for excellence in teacher preparation and development.
For more information about the University of Mount Union’s teacher education program, visit the website at (www.mountunion.edu/teacher-education-program-1). More information about NCATE is available at www.ncate.org.