Accreditation and Approval of Teacher Education Programs

As in other fields, accreditation of teacher education programs is a mechanism for examining and attesting to the quality of programs (National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, 1997). However, unlike other professions, national professional accreditation is not required in teacher education. The majority of states recognize only teacher preparation programs from institutions that are regionally accredited. Fewer than 40 percent of teacher education programs are nationally accredited (U.S. Department of Education, 2001).

All states require teacher preparation programs to obtain state approval based on policies and standards set by them. These standards establish criteria that, if met, authorize the program to prepare and recommend teacher candidates for state licensure. The teacher preparation approval standards often also incorporate specific state-required courses or competencies necessary to obtain a state license. These approval standards and license requirements are unique to each state. Fourteen states have established independent professional standards boards or commissions with responsibility for establishing licensure standards, and all but three of these boards have authority to approve teacher preparation programs (National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification, 2000b).

The process for approving programs varies by state. Some states conduct a paper review of the curriculum. Others do an on-site review based on adopted standards, primarily process measures organized around students, faculty, and program resources (e.g., number of faculty, degree status, student admission criteria, diversity of students and faculty, professional development funds). Some states (such as Indiana, Connecticut, Ohio, North Dakota, and Minnesota) have approval criteria that are performance or competency based; they examine how a program endeavors to ensure that teacher candidates acquire specific knowledge and skills. Sometimes they also examine program outcomes, such as teachers’ and employers’ perceptions of their adequacy of the programs, graduation rates, and job placement rates.

In over 40 states, teacher preparation programs in colleges and universities may obtain both state approval and national accreditation or may substitute national accreditation by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) for state approval. NCATE began accrediting teacher education programs in 1954 (NCATE, 2000a). It represents 33 specialty professional associations of teachers, teacher educators, content specialists, and local and state policy makers. NCATE introduced new outcome-based accreditation standards in 2000 (see Chapter 2 and Appendix B). Currently, 12 states require accreditation using the NCATE standards and more than 40 states have partnerships that encourage professional accreditation.

A new organization called the Teacher Education Accrediting Council (TEAC) has proposed to take a different approach to accreditation. TEAC proposes to conduct academic audits against institutions’ own standards using evidence collected by the institution and to use those standards to judge program

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