The Council for the Accreditation of Education Preparation (CAEP) is poised to raise the bar. As the new accrediting body for educator preparation, CAEP will serve as a model accreditor with rigorous standards, demanding sound evidence and establishing a platform to drive continuous improvement and innovation. As its first initiative to achieve those goals, the CAEP Board of Directors created the CAEP Commission on Standards and Performance Reporting and charged it to develop accreditation standards for preparation programs. The Commission is comprised of representatives from diverse professional positions who often reflect a range of divergent perspectives that challenge the status quo and push for urgent changes in educator preparation.
The Commission’s Draft Report For Public Comment
The Commission has developed a draft of its recommendations for the CAEP Board of Directors and is circulating this report for public feedback. The Commission has given emphasis to a firm grounding of its standards and evidence on empirical research or, where there is little guiding research, has based its recommendations on best practices and professional consensus. The Commission calls for accountability of providers and CAEP, itself; public reporting must be forthright and transparent. And, the Commission recommends new standards and decision procedures that balance strong evidence with professional judgment.
CAEP’s leaders have set challenging goals to enhance the value of accreditation. Commission members have responded to their charge by identifying four especially critical points of leverage to transform educator preparation in our nation:
- Build partnerships and strong clinical experiences—Educator preparation providers and collaborating schools and school districts bring complementary experiences that, joined together, promise far stronger preparation programs. (See standard 2.)
- Raise and assure candidate quality—From recruitment and admission, through preparation, and at exit, educator preparation providers must take responsibility to build an educator workforce that is more able, and also more representative of America’s diverse population. (See standard 3, including minimum admissions criteria and a group average performance on nationally normed admissions assessments in the top third of national pools.)
- Include all providers—Accreditation must encourage innovations in preparation by welcoming all of the varied providers that seek accreditation and meet challenging levels of performance.
- And surmounting all others, insist that preparation be judged by outcomes and impact on P-12 student learning—Results matter; “effort” is not enough. (See standard 4, especially.)
These points of leverage are not accreditation “business as usual,” nor do they represent marginal changes from current and former education accreditation practice. Exercising them can add value to what states are trying to accomplish with their reforms in preparation policy.
The Draft Standards And Recommendations
The Commission’s work is organized in part around three areas of teacher preparation identified by the National Academy of Sciences 2010 report, Preparing Teachers: Building Evidence for Sound Policy. The Academy panel sifted through hundreds of research studies from recent decades and, not surprisingly, concluded that more research is needed in order to have sound evidence about the effects of particular aspects of preparation. But it found that existing research provides some guidance: content knowledge, field experience, and the quality of teacher candidates “are likely to have the strongest effects” on outcomes for students.
The Commission has drafted the following three standards:
Standard 1: CONTENT AND PEDAGOGICAL KNOWLEDGE
The provider ensures that candidates develop a deep understanding of the critical concepts and principles of their discipline and, by completion, are able to use discipline-specific practices flexibly to advance the learning of all students toward attainment of college and career-readiness standards.
Standard 2: CLINICAL PARTNERSHIPS AND PRACTICE
The provider ensures that effective partnerships and high-quality clinical practice are central to preparation so that candidates develop the knowledge, skills and dispositions necessary to demonstrate positive impact on all P-12 students’ learning.
Standard 3: CANDIDATE QUALITY, RECRUITMENT AND SELECTIVITY
The provider demonstrates that the quality of candidates is a continuing and purposeful part of its responsibility from recruitment, at admission, through the progression of courses and field and clinical experiences, and to decisions that completers are prepared to teach effectively and are recommended for certification.
The Commission also explored important functions of an accrediting body that are fashioned around attributes of high-performing education organizations. These are supported by research on effective management, and, especially, the Baldrige education award criteria for performance excellence, and also by recent trends and new approaches among accreditors. Key concepts advanced in these resources are a relentless focus on results, and a systematic and purposeful use of evidence for continuous improvement. The fourth and fifth standards and two additional recommendations for the CAEP Board of Directors are built upon these sources.
Standard 4: PROGRAM IMPACT
The provider demonstrates the impact of its completers on P-12 student learning, classroom instruction and schools, and the satisfaction of its completers with the relevance and effectiveness of their preparation.
Standard 5: PROVIDER QUALITY, CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT, AND CAPACITY
The provider maintains a quality assurance system comprised of data from multiple measures, including evidence of candidates’ and completers’ positive impact on P-12 student learning and development. The provider supports continuous improvement that is sustained, evidence-based, and that evaluates the effectiveness of its completers. The provider uses the results of inquiry and data collection to establish priorities, enhance program elements and capacity, and test innovations to improve completers’ impact on P-12 student learning.
Recommendations on ANNUAL REPORTING AND CAEP MONITORING
The Commission recommends that CAEP gather the following data and monitor them annually from all providers:
On program impact:
1. Impact on P-12 learning
2. Indicators of teaching effectiveness
3. Employer surveys, candidate retention and employment milestones
4. Results of completer surveys
On program outcomes:
5. Graduation rates
6. Ability of completers to meet licensing (certification) and any additional state requirements
7. Ability of completers to be hired in education positions for which they have prepared
8. Student loan default rates
The Commission recommends that CAEP identify significant amounts of change in any of these indicators that would prompt investigation to initiate (1) adverse action that could include revocation of accreditation status or (2) recognition of eligibility for a higher level of accreditation. In addition, the Commission recommends that CAEP include these data as a recurring feature in the CAEP annual report.
Recommendations on LEVELS OF ACCREDITATION
The Commission proposes four levels of accreditation decisions:
denial of accreditation—for providers that fall below threshold in two or more standards
probationary accreditation—awarded to providers that meet or surpass the threshold in four standards, but fall below in one of the standards
full accreditation—awarded to providers that meet all five standards at the CAEP-established thresholds
exemplary or “gold” accreditation—awarded to a small number of providers that meet the threshold level set for all five standards and surpass the threshold in a combination of standards
The Commission also recommends that CAEP accreditation be based on a judgment that the provider’s accreditation evidence meets a designated “threshold” for each of the five standards recommended by the Commission. To achieve full accreditation, all components for standard 4 on Program Impact and components 5.4 and 5.5 on continuous improvement must reach an “operating” threshold for evidence.
The CAEP Board of Directors will need to craft implementation plans so that new standards and recommendations for action can be put into place. The evidence expectations must be phased in over a brief period of years, and as new assessments and more common measures come into place, the expectations can be raised. These new CAEP standards set the bar high so that attaining accreditation status will be a meaningful achievement. Setting high standards will change incentives and change the behavior of providers. High expectations for admissions and gaining proficiency during preparation will, themselves, attract more able candidates into teaching.
The charge to the Commission gave equal weight to “essential standards” and to “accompanying evidence” indicating that standards are met. Commissioners are optimistic that advances in the quality of evidence are at hand, and some of the pending opportunities are illustrated in the listed examples that follow each standard. The Commission has included examples of evidence that would be familiar to any accredited provider (e.g., observation measures of candidate performance), and ones that are familiar but with more rigorous performance levels expected (e.g., common cut scores on licensure tests). Some examples explicitly anticipate the emergence of additional measures or new assessments (e.g., a new generation of licensure tests), and the Commission recommends some evaluation data strategies that would be new to accreditation (e.g., recruitment plans, goals and monitoring of results). During the public comment period, the Commission is soliciting feedback on the appropriateness, rigor, comprehensiveness, and adequacy of these examples of evidence for accreditation decisions.