Future educators have a number of criteria and standards they must meet. In the process of coursework, they must demonstrate their fitness to assume the duties of teaching at their desired level. But from where do these standards come? What organization determines how teaching colleges effectively train teachers to meet the demands of the educational world? The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) has been charged with this duty in the United States, and understanding how they create standards can assist the next generation of teachers.
A Bit of History
The story of NCATE began in 1954, when several national organizations put their heads together to form a unified body of member organizations. These members were tasked with the mission of upholding a national standard of excellence with regard to the education of those who taught the nation’s children. While accreditation of teaching colleges had formerly been the province of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), NCATE would assume the duty.
The rationale behind this formation is the recognition that legitimate quality standards and accreditation can best be upheld and conferred by an independent organization. NCATE represents a consolidation of several large but specialized groups—NASDTEC, CCSSO, NEA, NSBA, and AACTE. While it remains closely bound to federal organizations, the NCATE is not beholden to any government. The standards it maintains are crafted with national educational goals and the needs of all students in mind, not with the shifting concerns of the capital city. As such, the U.S. Department of Education recognizes NCATE as an independent body tasked with maintaining teacher education excellence.
Mission, Goals, and Tenets of NCATE
The mission of NCATE is to establish a superior quality of preparation standards for educators, specialists, and administrators. This non-profit organization provides professional accreditation to departments, schools, and school systems. However, they are not a single body, but comprised of more than thirty professional organizations that represent many millions of invested individuals.
Currently, they offer accreditation to 670 colleges of education, which are the institutions that teach educators. This mark of excellence entails that the teachers graduating from these colleges are fully prepared to appropriately instruct students in specific subjects at precise levels, utilizing a variety of pedagogical approaches to ensure that every student receives the maximum benefits of education.
Recently, NCATE joined forces with other organizations to form the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). The mission of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education remains unchanged, and colleges bearing their seal of approval may still utilize their guidelines in order to maintain accreditation status. However, the scope and reach of accreditation was strengthened in 2013, when NCATE and TEAC merged to form CAEP. This organization fulfills the mission of NCATE, but operates on a base of five standards that include assessment of program effectiveness and continuing education of teachers to meet changing curricula.
A unified approach to how excellence is recognized and maintained is important in any system. As well, in order to meet the educational challenges new teachers will face, they must receive the highest level of instruction and preparation, which must be adaptive to national guidelines, pedagogical approaches, student needs, and curriculum parameters. The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and the CAEP are organizations formed to meet this need, offering independent recognition and maintenance of programs responsible for training the teachers of tomorrow.