WMU News

College of Education meets profession's standards

Feb. 5, 2002

KALAMAZOO -- Although research shows that teacher quality is the single most important factor in K-12 student achievement, determining whether first-time educators are fit to teach is another matter entirely, according to officials at the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.

The organization recently gave Western Michigan University's College of Education its seal of approval by continuing WMU's accreditation. Nationally, NCATE accredits 525 institutions, which, collectively, produce about two-thirds of all U.S. teacher graduates each year.

WMU, which began nearly 100 years ago as a teacher training school, annually sends upwards of 800 new educators into classrooms throughout the U.S. This winter, a record 500-plus WMU pre-service teachers are assigned to schools throughout southwest Michigan.

"This underscores the contribution we're making to the teaching field," says College of Education Dean David A. England. "The challenge here is to continue being a very, very large producer of teachers and professional educators, and to make sure they are of very high quality. NCATE accreditation is evidence that we are succeeding at both."

By completing their studies at an NCATE-accredited institution, these new teachers will emerge from WMU with an understanding of student diversity, in-depth knowledge of the subject matter they plan to teach and the skills necessary to convey content so that their students learn.

At the same time, the designation ensures that WMU is meeting rigorous performance-oriented standards embraced by the profession and the public. As part of the accreditation process, members of the NCATE site review team examined many indicators of the College of Education's success.

In addition to scrutinizing student performance and competence, the team also looked at WMU's partnerships with public school districts, the faculty's ability to model effective teaching practices and ways it is helping new teachers meet high educational technology standards.

"For us, NCATE provides documented evidence that says this institution meets professional standards," England says. "It helps our faculty, our students and our stakeholders understand not only that our programs are excellent, but why."

WMU will be up for review again in 2005, and faculty members already are working toward meeting a new set of NCATE standards. Increased emphasis on student and faculty use of technology as a teaching tool and more documentation explaining pre-service teachers' impact on their students are among the revised criteria.

NCATE revises its standards every five years to make sure they reflect a consensus about what is important in teacher preparation today. The organization is recognized by the U.S. Dept. of Education as the professional accrediting body for schools, departments, and colleges of education.

Media contact: Gail H. Towns, 269 387-8400, gail.towns@wmich.edu

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