March 22, 2013
The Council for the Accreditation of Education Preparation (CAEP) takes up its responsibilities as the new national accreditor of educator preparation providers at a time of high interest in P-12 student performance and in the capabilities of the education workforce. In this context, accreditation must be a strong lever in shaping educator preparation, assuring the public of the rigor of educator preparation programs.
Accreditation is a non-governmental activity based on peer-review that serves the dual functions of assuring quality and motivating improvement. CAEP, then, is ideally positioned to play an effective role through its accreditation standards as a collaborator and initiator of changes in educator preparation that enhance the effects of widespread education reforms. The accreditation process provides a ready means of bringing evidence to bear on the task of meeting the unique demands, challenges, and opportunities that make up the new educational landscape.
Standards serve as the basis for any accreditor’s reviews. These attributes of accreditation spring from a broad consensus across educator preparation stakeholders, data users, and policymakers, and are what set accreditation apart from simple ranking systems. Standards make expectations for evidence clear, and act as a framework for continuous improvement.
It is appropriate, then, that the first publicly visible action of CAEP was the creation of its Commission on Standards and Performance Reporting, in May 2012; tasked with transforming the preparation of educators by creating a rigorous system of accreditation that demands excellence and produces educators who raise student achievement.
Specifically, the Commission was charged with developing – for all preparation providers – the next generation of accreditation standards based on evidence, continuous improvement, innovation, and clinical practice.
The Commission’s work is organized around the three areas of teacher preparation identified in the National Research Council‘s 2010 report, Preparing teachers: Building evidence for sound policy, as most likely to have the strongest effects on raising student achievement – content knowledge, clinical experience, and the quality of teacher candidates. The Commission is also exploring other important functions of an accrediting body, including quality assurance, continuous improvement and public accountability, and transparency.
Accreditation has sometimes been criticized for focusing on inputs rather than outcomes, so it should be noted that this next generation of standards will be designed to make evidence and continuous quality improvement central to the mission of 21st-century accreditation. These new standards seek to move beyond simple compliance measures to incorporate “aspirational” standards, describing a kind of ideal program or characteristic, as well as more “prescriptive” ones firmly rooted in research.
With emerging evidence, data streams, and the most sweeping education reforms in decades, CAEP is poised to work with educator preparation providers in using accreditation to leverage further advancement in the field, ensuring that P-12 students are prepared to compete in today’s global economy.
The public is encouraged to review the draft of the next generation of accreditation standards and provide comment at http://standards.caepnet.org before March 29, 2013, when the comment period closes.