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NCATE Strengthens TC

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From April 2 through 6, a group of educators representing NCATE-the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education-will visit Teachers College to review documentation about the school and its curriculum, and interview faculty and students as well as public school teachers and principals who work with TC.

Since 2000, New York State has required all institutions that prepare teachers and other school professionals to be either nationally or state-accredited. TC chose national accreditation because it ensures that graduates' credentials will be recognized in many states in the country.

But "NCATE accreditation is ‘a process not a product,'" says John Saxman, Chair of TC's Biobehavioral Sciences Department and faculty leader for the NCATE accreditation effort. "For the faculty, it was an opportunity to discuss the values they hold for education."

More specifically, TC has conducted a wholesale review of 27 programs across multiple disciplines. "Ultimately we developed ways of measuring what we do and the performance of our students," says Saxman. "The whole purpose of accreditation is to ensure that the graduates of this institution meet professional standards."

The NCATE standards are "outcome-based, so beyond showing that our students graduated with a certain amount of credits, we have to demonstrate that they can teach their subjects effectively," adds Sasha [Alexandra] Gribovskaya, project coordinator of TC's Accreditation Project. To do this, Teachers College programs created a new assessment system for students rooted in three "philosophical stances"-Inquiry, Curriculum and Social Justice-that provide an overall framework for the institution's work and mission. Gribovskaya says these three stances are translated into learning outcomes through five standards: Inquirers and Reflective Practitioners, Lifelong Learners, Learner-Centered Educators/Professionals, Effective Collaborators, and Advocates of Social Justice and Diversity.

"This framework links all TC's professional education programs together," Gribovskaya said. 
The NCATE process has also helped TC upgrade its academic technology. Six teacher education programs-Speech and Language Pathology, Social Studies, Mental Retardation/Autism, Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Bilingual Education and Technology Specialist-have started building electronic portfolio systems that, once fully implemented, will allow the College to aggregate data across programs.

Concludes Saxman: "The faculty and staff have put in an enormous amount of work to engage in this process."

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