Tensions in Teacher Preparation: Accountability, Assessment, and Accreditation: Volume 12

Cover of Tensions in Teacher Preparation: Accountability, Assessment, and Accreditation
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Table of contents

(23 chapters)
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Disclaimer

Page xiii
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Brigham Young University has been consistently accredited by National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) since 1954. Our accreditation reports of past years focused on input information – general goals, complicated organization diagrams, and clinical performance assessments. When NCATE moved from inputs to outcomes with evidence grounded in measurable data, we worked collaboratively among teacher education faculty, faculty from the arts and sciences colleges, and public school partners to overhaul our assessment system and design new instruments. Our current accreditation reports include course and clinical assessments aligned with specific program outcomes, statistical charts detailing the levels at which these outcomes are being met, and documentation of programmatic decisions based on the findings of our assessments. Moving from input descriptions to output evidence was a painful process. However, we have come to appreciate the usefulness and value of our experiences, the tools that emerged, and the new decision-making processes we now engage in. This chapter is a recounting of our frustrations and the lessons we learned as we moved toward a culture of data-based decision-making.

This chapter chronicles the process of one division of education's journey in achieving initial teacher accreditation from the perspective of the chair and author of the accreditation report. It was acknowledged early in the process that a collaborative self-study that had never been done before would be critical to a successful outcome. A committed faculty willingly participated in a study of themselves, their work and their collective work as a division. A deeper understanding of the complex role of teacher educators and authentic assessment in teacher education led to the development of a new assessment system resulting in valid and reliable data to support current claims and make planning decisions. Their shared belief in the power of education and understanding drove the faculty through various challenging, frustrating, invigorating, and exhausting experiences resulting in positive change and a clearer vision for the future.

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The report from our recent accreditation visit indicated that the unit has an emerging framework for an assessment system that collects data at necessary transition points. However, the report also suggests that the unit does not analyze that data in an effective way to conduct meaningful program change. The events that led to this discovery (and the actions that have been taken since) have provided important lessons learned for our institution that relate to continuous program improvement and the accreditation process itself. This chapter details those events and lessons learned.

Brigham Young University has been consistently accredited by NCATE since 1954. Our accreditation reports of past years focused on input information – general goals, complicated organization diagrams, and clinical performance assessments. When NCATE moved from inputs to outcomes with evidence grounded in measurable data, we worked collaboratively among teacher education faculty, faculty from the arts and sciences colleges, and public school partners to overhaul our assessment system and design new instruments. Our current accreditation reports include course and clinical assessments aligned with specific program outcomes, statistical charts detailing the levels at which these outcomes are being met, and documentation of programmatic decisions based on the findings of our assessments. Moving from input descriptions to output evidence was a painful process. However, we have come to appreciate the usefulness and value of our experiences, the tools that emerged, and the new decision-making processes we now engage in. This chapter is a recounting of our frustrations and the lessons we learned as we moved toward a culture of data-based decision-making.

This chapter focuses on accountability and accreditation policies and practices in teacher education in the United States, England, Wales, and China. Despite the differences between countries, issues and problems of teacher education from country to country are remarkably similar. As a profession, we must examine where we are and where we need to be to meet the needs of our global society. We can begin by defining quality teaching and the essential skills for 21st-century teachers and students. As part of a global profession, teachers and educators must not work in isolation. It will be up to the leaders in the profession to educate political and accreditation bodies by sharing models that will meet the needs of our changing world. Can we give up the nostalgic notions of education and provide assistance to education preparation professionals to move toward new rapid-change models?

Meeting accreditation requirements provides challenges for any size institution. One small, state-supported university found three solutions to problems associated with gaining accreditation: the creation of an accreditation “data pantry;” the use of common technological formats and technologically savvy faculty members to “work smarter, not harder” with accreditation tasks and data; and the participation of faculty members in new ways to revise curriculum, forge stronger relationships among faculty from different departments, and generate strong learning experiences for students. Two frustrations regarding the accreditation process remained: university responsibility for the performance of former education students long after they leave campus and competency testing that forces schools into reactionary leadership that may place gaining accreditation ahead of meeting students’ needs. Finally, the milieu of “teststeria” has a deleterious effect on faculty innovation, pulls faculty focus away from the students whom they desire to serve, and decreases the value of the teaching profession.

Accreditation demands from both state and national bodies have influenced the development of major assessments at Maryville University of St. Louis. Three key assessments used in all teacher preparation programs are described: practicum assessments of candidates in field experiences, program portfolios, and the student work sampling project. A review of the impact of accreditation on the development and analysis of these assessments reveals a constant tension between the use of qualitative and quantitative data. Although the assessment system allows for data collection, analysis, and use, it is perceived more as a burden than illuminating. The qualitative conversations growing from the use and analysis of individual data often lead to more program change. Involvement in the use of assessments with candidates, observations of candidates in the field and in their presentations, and review of candidate comments appear to provide the best data sources.

In her children's book, Stone Soup, Heather Forest (1998) recreates a popular European folktale about people wanting to make soup but lacking the typical ingredients…. As the story unfolds, they discover the possibilities that are available when individuals come together to make soup out of a stone and with the contribution of each member – a carrot, a potato – and “a magical ingredient…sharing.” Within this chapter, we tell our story of seeking national accreditation for the Urban Teacher Education Program (UTEP) at Rutgers University-Newark (RU-N)…. This story is crafted through personal experience narratives that illuminate the contribution of each author toward making our UTEP soup…. As in the story of Stone Soup…, we lack the typical ingredients to achieve accreditation, and we continue to make it happen.

The history of continuous improvement, particularly requirements to close the feedback loop, was explored through an analysis of experiences at St. Cloud State University (SCSU). A method for generating evidence of the use of assessment data is provided. Several program improvements tied to this example were cited, including increasing the number of program area reports, adding to the number of qualitative studies, and strengthening advisement. Difficulties encountered with the system included institutionalizing the approach, response rates, and workload issues.

This chapter examines the recalcitrant effects of isolationism and the intentional efforts that are necessary to create authentic, collaborative partnerships between schools and universities, between schools and schools, and among educators. The tension between a vision of community and collaboration and the ability to enact that vision raises questions about the necessary knowledge, skills, and dispositions required to be a part of a community-based professional culture, what it means to prepare teachers to work in such a professional community, and to question the unexamined assumptions about the definition of professionalism and teacher knowledge that undergird current accreditation and accountability frameworks. To relieve that tension, we must start demanding data that demonstrates preservice candidates' ability to work collaboratively toward more effective practice, rather than focusing so narrowly on statistics that describe what they know and have done individually within a classroom setting.

Through the use of narrative inquiry, this self-study focuses on my teacher education practices. A flashback in time probes the influence of four simultaneous accountability reviews – a national accreditation review, a regional accreditation review, a university system review, and local campus review – on my personal experiences and identity within academia. The recollection provides a public view of private practice, explores the hidden curriculum of accountability, reveals cover stories personally and collectively lived, and illuminates how my knowledge of accountability became heightened. Through drawing on multiple forms of evidence, I reconstruct a series of changes I lived that had to do with human subjects’ reviews, course syllabi requirements, student assignments, grading procedures, and personal productivity. The self-inquiry lays bare individual and institutional compromises that were made to achieve acceptable measures of success as determined by external agencies. Reflections on what occurred in the aftermath of the reviews are also included. Most of all, hard lessons learned amid multiple accountability agendas are brought forward for discussion and analysis, not only by me, but by the national and international teacher education communities whose memberships face similar demands for performativity, the European equivalent of accountability. The accumulation of self-studies such as mine will help to show the incipit nature of the accountability phenomenon and its pernicious impact on teacher educator's work and personal images of teaching. Research such as this will demonstrate how desperately productive change is needed in the fields of teaching and teacher education.

This chapter examines the University of Southern Maine's experience seeking national accreditation through the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC). We share positive benefits from the process as well as the opportunity costs that come with the large commitment of time, energy, and resources to a national accreditation process. In conclusion, we discuss what there is to learn from our case that can shed light on the issue of how the accreditation process contributes to or detracts from developing a professionalized teacher corps through colleges of education.

This chapter primarily describes the tensions the University of Wyoming College of Education experienced as preparations were made for the undergraduate portion of the NCATE review, as well as lessons learned from the experience. Three tensions are explored using the themes of: (a) knowing your context, (b) time and prior planning, and (c) flexibility. The experiences of the latest accreditation process are explored with suggestions to be savvy about your setting, plan for surprises, be flexible, know your limits, and have a good strategy for data collection. Ongoing challenges including NCLB, future accreditation requirements, and faculty awareness are examined.

The School of Education at Utah Valley University has grown relatively quickly from a limited teacher education program to an elementary and secondary education licensure program with over 800 juniors and seniors. Growth on this level is accompanied by significant change, particularly with reference to programmatic requirements, assessment, and accreditation. The School of Education faculty has worked over several years to define its mission and philosophy, determine the program structure and evaluation procedures, and pursue accreditation. Developing a culture that responds to accountability requirements, while staying true to the school's philosophic beliefs and practical restrictions, has been an on-going effort. However, these “tensions of change” have resulted in a faculty who work as a team to act in response to issues revealed by observation and assessment, to continually advance our mission-to prepare excellent teachers for our community's schools.

The Western Governors University (WGU) educational model departs from most other postsecondary education models in two principal respects – it operates entirely online and is competency based. In fewer than 10 years, WGU has built a fully accredited (including National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education accreditation) national teachers college offering 30 different programs to an enrollment of nearly 10,000 preservice candidates residing in all 50 states and several foreign countries. This chapter will describe how the WGU model differs from other institutions and how these differences both simplified and complicated the building of the teachers college, the accreditation process, and obtaining licensure for our students in different states.

Miami University is a mid-sized public institution in southwest Ohio. Regarded as a “public ivy,” Miami has always prided itself on its high quality, liberal arts-focused, undergraduate programs. Teacher Education has been an important part of that focus for over 100 years. Accredited by National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) since 1954, Miami graduates approximately 600 educators each year across 35 programs at both the undergraduate and the graduate levels. This chapter represents the combined stories of three individuals who were heavily engaged in Miami's 2009 NCATE accreditation process: Teresa McGowan, the unit's NCATE coordinator; Ellen Hill, the unit's Director of Clinical Experiences; and James Shiveley, the chair of the Department of Teacher Education. We each provide a brief contextual backdrop for our NCATE experience, explain the primary challenges we faced as we prepared for the NCATE accreditation review and how we worked to overcome these, and describe our perspective of the weeks leading up to and including the final Board of Examiners (BOE) visit. Many more people were, of course, essential in the preparation for Miami's NCATE visit, and we do not imply that our views or contributions were in any way more critical than others. This chapter is simply our story.

Accountability requirements established by state and national mandates have positioned accreditation bodies as overseers of institutional compliance and quality control of teacher preparation programs. These bodies then dictate the procedures and criteria for how preparation programs will prove their competence in the preparation of teachers who are deemed highly qualified. This process of mandated accreditation, by its very nature, is imposed as a top-down structure even when it is couched in bottom-up processes. Nearly all of the institutions indicated that they had some type of bottom-up procedures for meeting the top-down requirements of accreditation. Strategic involvement of faculty from the beginning of the process made “it personal, create[d] faculty ‘buy in’, produce[d] commitment, and thus more investment” (Ackerman and Hoover, St. Cloud State University). As Pierce and Simmerman (Utah Valley University) pointed out that both requiring and allowing faculty participation in the decision making process and development of common goals, this bottom-up tactic helped to establish joint ownership of their faculty in the process. Hutchison, Buss, Ellsworth, and Persichitte (University of Wyoming) also indicated that successful accreditation processes require faculty support and input on both the process and the decisions that are made. Indeed, they acknowledged that their decision to include all college faculty involved with teacher preparation was stressful, but central in yielding positive dividends in the process. Utilizing a bottom-up task within a top-down structure positions stakeholders as worker bees to accomplish a project that may or may not be seen to them as having personal or professional benefit – thus tensions are fostered.

About the Authors

Pages 319-329
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Michael H. Abel is the manager for Domain Quality and Development at Western Governors University (WGU) in the United States and assists faculty in developing detailed descriptions of the domains of knowledge, skill, and ability that serve as the basis for academic program and assessment development. As a co-developer of the WGU Teachers College assessment programs, Michael designed specialized databases for standards alignment and domain development and created and administered training for test item writers and editors. He also served as senior assessment developer and editor when the WGU Teachers College assessment program went university wide. Michael received an MA in International Relations from the University of Southern California and a BA in German from Brigham Young University. He is co-author of a test item development guide, The Art of Item Development.

Cover of Tensions in Teacher Preparation: Accountability, Assessment, and Accreditation
DOI
10.1108/S1479-3687(2010)12
Publication date
2010-09-02
Book series
Advances in Research on Teaching
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-0-85724-099-6
eISBN
978-0-85724-100-9
Book series ISSN
1479-3687