So what good is accreditation anyway
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So What Good Is Accreditation Anyway?. Suzanne M Wilson Michigan State University January 2006. “The surest, quickest way to add quality to primary and secondary education would be addition by subtraction: Close all the schools of education” (George Will, Newsweek, 16 January 2006) .

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So What Good Is Accreditation Anyway?

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So what good is accreditation anyway

So What Good Is Accreditation Anyway?

Suzanne M Wilson

Michigan State University

January 2006


So what good is accreditation anyway

“The surest, quickest way to add quality to primary and secondary education would be addition by subtraction: Close all the schools of education” (George Will, Newsweek, 16 January 2006)


Accreditation

Accreditation

  • As one form of institutionalized traditional teacher education, accreditation is at the center of this discourse


Accreditation1

Accreditation

  • So today I wanted to do three things:

  • 1. Briefly summarize the research findings that exist in this area

  • 2. Discuss some of the contemporary criticisms of accreditation

  • 3. Discuss some problems with the professionalism agenda, that both NCATE and TEAC ascribe to


Research

Research

  • There is a great deal of writing on accreditation, but it tends to be informational: stories of the process, how to do it well, problems with it, why one needs to do it.

  • Wilson and Youngs found two studies


Research1

Research

  • Goodlad and colleagues

    • Visited 29 institutions in 1987-88

    • Teacher ed was the field most affected by outside forces

    • Teacher educators were resigned to this, and reacted by conforming to state requirements

    • Goodlad et al. concluded that the state focus on regulation lowered quality


Research2

Research

  • Gitomer, Latham, and Ziomek (1999) analyzed data for all individuals who took the SAT or ACT between 1977 and 1995 and who took Praxis I and/or Praxis II between 1994 and 1997. The study reported that passing rates on Praxis I and II were higher for those who had attended NCATE-accredited institutions than for those who attended institutions not accredited by NCATE.


Research3

Research

  • Clearly, two studies does not a research base make

  • There is other scholarship that helps us see the effects of increased bureaucracy, as well as the effects of ignoring the encroachment of authority over teacher education by state departments

  • For instance, Pat Graham and her colleagues have argued that

    • Internal accountability should attend to teaching and learning

    • External accountability should act as audits of the internal processes

    • But if those things get confused, misalignment can undercut educational quality


Research4

Research

  • Ludlow, Shirley, and Rosca (2002) found that, in response to high failure rates of prospective teachers on state teacher tests

    besieged institutions: test prep sessions, alignment of the teacher ed curriculum to the tests, teachers were encouraged to read high school textbooks as a means to beef up their content knowledge

    less threatened institutions offered orientation sessions and workshops, as well as extra support to at risk teachers


Concerns about accreditation

Concerns about accreditation

We do not know the effects of these kinds of reactions on program quality

Indeed, we do not know the effects of accreditation at all.


The critics

The Critics

Four critiques of the “monopoly” of traditional teacher education


Criticism 1 the market argument

Criticism 1: The market argument

  • Like everything else in the educational establishment, teacher education is seen as conservative, mired in tradition, inflexible and -- worse -- not working.

  • So we need to open up the “market”

  • Sub-arguments:

    • Unjustifiable costs

    • The power of alternatives

    • No accountability


Criticism 1 the market argument1

Criticism 1: The market argument

"As usual with vexing policy dilemmas, the education field has developed a conventional wisdom about how to resolve this one. And as too often happens, the conventional wisdom in this case boils down to: more of the same. We're told to improve the [schools] by adding more formal training and certification requirements to those already in place. . . . The alternative approach -- open more gates, welcome people from many different directions to enter them, minimize the hoops and hurdles and regulatory hassles, look for talent rather than paper credentials -- has already taken root in public school teaching. . ." (Finn)


Market 1 unjustified costs

Market 1:Unjustified costs

  • The traditional system is expensive -- in personal, social, material costs

    Prospective teachers "pay tuition, sacrifice the opportunity to work in order to attend courses, practice teach for eight to 12 weeks without compensation, and endure the red tape of obtaining additional certification if one wants to work in a state other than the one in which they trained. . . . by requiring aspiring teacher to jump through a series of time-consuming but little regarded hoops, this system will disproportionately deter the entrepreneurial and energetic." (Hess, 2001)


Market 1 unjustified costs1

Market 1: Unjustified costs

Accreditation is just as costly and just as bad

“Unfortunately, the teacher educator's role in credentialing has become more a matter of assuring the right course distribution than documenting graduates' expertise and effectiveness . . . All those complicated matrices may look official but they are, fundamentally, bureaucratic ruses rather than convincing evidence of competence. . . . We can continue to be hindered by participating in the accreditation and credentialing sham or begin the harder work of providing clear evidence of the effects of our efforts. Unfortunately, I see no way to do both." (Allington, 2005)


Market 2 the magnetism of alternatives

Market 2: The magnetism of alternatives

Traditional teacher education keeps some people out -- smart people, career changers, people of color. Only flexibility will get those people in.


Market 3 history of no accountability and resistant to any internal or external criticism

Market 3: History of no accountability and resistant to any internal or external criticism

"The fact that schools of education could no longer rely on a captive body of aspiring teachers would expose them to the cleansing winds of competition." (Hess, 2002)

Criticism would increase quality. Critics have long noted that teacher education has been resistant to any criticism at all:

To the scholar from an established discipline, one of the most shocking facts about the field of education is the almost complete absence of rigorous criticism from within. Among scientists and scholars, criticism of one another’s findings is regarded as a normal and necessary part of the process of advancing knowledge. But full and frank criticism of new educational proposals rarely comes from other professional educationists. (Bestor, 1953)


Market 3 history of no accountability and resistant to any internal or external criticism1

Market 3: History of no accountability and resistant to any internal or external criticism

“The [education] establishment is overly defensive; it views any proposal for change as a threat and assumes that any critic intends to enlarge its difficulties and responsibilities while simultaneously undermining its ability to bear them. In short, there is too much resentment of outside criticism and too little effort for vigorous internal criticism. In some instances, I found the establishment’s rigidity frightening.” (Conant, 1963)

“In responding to such malicious onslaughts, the teacher preparation community does itself no favors by presuming that sharp critiques are necessarily malicious or illegitimate." (Hess, 2005)


Market criticism

Market criticism

  • In sum, critics of teacher education or certification sometimes draw on a market argument, noting that the bureaucracy is constraining, costly for prospective teachers, closed to important alternatives, and would be improved by the accountability and need for evidence that would come with a market framework.


Criticism 2 the research base argument

Criticism 2: The Research-base Argument

Despite years on end of teacher education programs, we have very little evidence that teachers prepared in traditional programs are any better off than teachers who have alternative training

In the case of this criticism, the critics rely on what Cochran Smith and Fries (2001) call “the evidentiary warrant”:

"Each side endeavors to construct its own warrant but also to undermine the warrant of the other by pointing out in explicit detail where methodological errors have been made, where the data reported are incorrect and incomplete, and/or where faulty logic or reasoning have led to inaccuracies and errors about the nature or size of effects" (p. 6)


Criticism 2 the research base argument1

Criticism 2: The Research-base Argument

Furthermore, teacher education advocates are accused of misusing, misinterpreting, and misrepresenting the research

  • Research is cited selectively

  • Imprecise measures that obscure the fact that we know so little

  • Researchers focus on variables that are poor measures of the qualities they are interested in, sometimes ignoring variables that are better measures.

  • Old research and often irretrievable work is cited

  • Research that has not been subjected to peer review, and an overreliance on dissertations

  • Studies that support teacher certification routinely violate basic principles of sound statistical analysis that other academic disciplines take for granted; methodological errors go unchallenged (Walsh, 2001)


Criticism 3 the ideology argument

Criticism 3: The ideology argument

  • The educational establishment has been taken over by a suffocating ideology that -- despite its assertions to care about diversity -- are not welcoming to alternative perspectives

  • “Many education schools discourage, even disqualify, prospective teachers who lack the correct "disposition," meaning those who do not embrace today's "progressive" political catechism. Karen Siegfried had a 3.75 grade-point average at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, but after voicing conservative views, she was told by her education professors that she lacked the "professional disposition" teachers need. She is now studying to be an aviation technician.” (Will, 2006)


Criticism 3 the ideology argument1

Criticism 3: The ideology argument

  • The concern here is that institutions, in accreditation, are being held to ideologically based standards:

  • Reading the NCATE documentation, one critic argues that: all programs are to "reflect multicultural and global perspectives" . . . . That a teacher education has to be "infused with a particular sociopolitical perspective -- a matter well removed from the issue of teacher effectiveness and one that policymakers and the public might well question” and that "teacher training programs must 'first and foremost' be 'dedicated' to 'equity,' 'diversity,' and 'social justice.' that teachers and administrators are morally obliged to promote social justice”


Criticism 3 the ideology argument2

Criticism 3: The ideology argument

During their training, prospective teachers are at a formative and impressionable stage. By entrusting schools of education with control over entry into teaching, certification lends the instructors a privileged position in sensitive social and moral discussions. This would be of little concern if education faculty mirrored the divisions with the larger society, but this is not the case. Professors of education tend to espouse a "constructivist" conception of pedagogy, curriculum, and schooling. It is received wisdom in teacher education that aggressive multiculturalism is a good thing, that aspiring white teachers ought to be forced to confront society's ingrained racism . . . (Hess, 2001)


Criticism 4 the professional knowledge professionalism argument

Criticism 4: The professional knowledge/ professionalism argument

  • Verbal ability and subject matter knowledge are all that matters

  • We don’t agree on what the “hard technology of teaching” is, so until we do, let’s not stifle innovation

  • Teaching is NOT a profession like law or medicine


In sum

In sum

  • Teacher ed is stale, entrenched, has not proven its worth (with internal accountability or research), and discourages the best and the brightest

  • Teaching is not the same kind of profession as medicine and law

  • The “knowledge base of teaching” is debatable and ideologically narrow

  • Opening up the market would help

  • Focusing on what we know -- content knowledge and verbal ability -- would help

  • Without an agreed upon knowledge base, it is premature to keep people out


The supporters

The Supporters


We had deregulation

We had deregulation


There is a professional knowledge base

There is a professional knowledge base

  • There is (growing) consensus, based on both normative and empirical grounds


Deregulation will lead to social reproduction

Deregulation will lead to social reproduction


Suspicious motives for or against the public good

Suspicious motives: For or against the public good?

  • "A market policy lens is based on competition, choice, winners and losers, and finding culprits. Yet teachers must assume that all children can learn, so there cannot be winners and losers. Market policies applied to public education are at odds with collaboration and cooperative approaches to teaching and learning . . ." (Earley, 2000)


There is convincing research

There is convincing research

  • There is evidence

  • Good research takes many different forms


The problems with teacher quality are not only the fault of colleges of education

The problems with teacher quality are not only the fault of colleges of education

  • Teacher education as university wide

  • Mass enterprise


What to think

What to think?

  • The professionalizers say:

  • "Strengthening teacher education will take political will, money, culture, and attitude change at the universities and the public schools. . . . The best answer to high quality teaching is professionalism: High quality professional training,high standards for entry into teaching, a strong induction program for beginning teachers, competitive pay, administrative support and continuous opportunities for professional growth." (p. 11)


What to think1

What to think?

The critics argue:

  • If proponents of teacher certification can clearly, concisely, and convincingly explain what it is that certified teachers need to master and how they will assess and ensure mastery, then a more narrowly tailored and more useful certification is entirely possible. If proponents cannot do this, then -- while recognizing that many forms of teacher preparation probably have real value -- preparation ought not to be made a prerequisite for pursuing a teaching position.” (Hess, p. 22)


Classic professionalism

“Classic” professionalism

“The foundation of a strong profession is a shared body of knowledge, based on research, and public confidence that professionals are fit to practice” (Wise, 2005).

  • Professionals . . .

    • Promote the public good

    • Need autonomy to do their work

    • Make decisions based on codified knowledge

    • Police themselves

      “The classical functionalist view disseminated by Durkheim, Spencer, Tawney, and Parsons emphasized positive characteristics such as institutionalized expertise, democratic control over knowledge and technology, and a collective ethos of disinterested public service” (Pels, 1995).


Critiques of professionalism

Critiques of professionalism

  • The problems . . .

  • Serving society v. fortifying privileges

  • Self-serving, monopolistic, and exclusionary

    Professionalism a “Janus faced”: the concept of professional autonomy “came to display an intrinsic duplicity or duality in which good and evil, functional necessity and dysfunctional domination, appeared to conspire closely” (Pels, 1995).


Neo weberian and public choice critiques

Neo-Weberian and public choice critiques

Professions result in

  • market closure (to preserve privileges),

  • monopoly (sacred symbols, social rituals),

  • exclusion (licenses),

  • inefficiency (reduced productivity), and

  • overall lack of productivity.


Professions as oppressive

Professions as oppressive

The rise and fall of faith in science

* The Enlightenment’s faith in science -- freeing us from oppression

* Frankfurt School and postmodernists -- knowledge is a social construct, never objective, and can exacerbate inequities instead of ameliorating them


Neo weberian public choice and postmodern critique

Neo-Weberian, public choice, and postmodern critique

To sum up, these critiques of the faith in professionalism suggest that the social space is being excessively controlled and maneuvered in the service of professionals (Neo-Weberians) or public employees (public choice). Since the teaching profession follows both definitions, it is flawed, according to its critics; it utilizes its excessive power to push issues in and off the agenda of policy makers, it attempts to influence the policy making process to achieve favorable results for insiders, and when unpopular reforms are enacted, the teaching profession controls implementation, thereby diminishing “evil” intent of those unpopular reforms. And, in naively embracing the ideas of professionalism it also (perhaps unwittingly) contributes to oppression.


What are the implications for accreditation

What are the implications for accreditation?

  • The point is to offer high quality teacher education, anything that gets in the way of that right now if problematic

    • Don’t waste institutional time

    • Be wary of the internal and external goals, and the ease by which these might be aligned

    • Be wary of the siren’s call of “evidence”

    • Protect against besieged mentalities that turn good ideas like being accountable into problematic processes like collecting bad data

    • Professionally responsible and publicly credible might need to be disentangled

    • Perhaps consider some cross institutional research/comparisons on the effects of teacher education and/or the effects of accreditation


What are the implications for accreditation1

What are the implications for accreditation?

  • And it might make sense to be constantly asking of accreditation:

  • Do we really need it? And if so, to what ends?


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