One Librarian's View of NCATE "Standards"
by Sidney Forman - 1971
Criteria for teacher accreditation are discussed. (Source: ERIC)
Our children—and our children's children—are being robbed of their birthright: a first-rate basic education. An instrument by which this theft is being perpetrated—Standards for the Accreditation of Teacher Education—is administered by NCATE, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.1 The Standards were written by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. They were then turned over to be administered by NCATE, an organization which has the responsibility for national accreditation of college and university programs for the preparation of all teachers and other professional school personnel at the elementary and secondary levels. The rationale which supports this procedure is that it allows a profession to police itself. The idea appears to be a good one but the Standards are so vague, so general, and, in fact, so deceptive as to place a seal of approval on many grossly inadequate teacher preparation programs. The end results are hordes of inadequately prepared teachers who innocently attend these "accredited" institutions and millions of children who are thereby deprived of an adequate education. It is time to cry "Stop thief!"
A clear example of NCATE's failure is apparent in the uselessness of the accreditation Standards designed to be applied to the education library and specifically to the library's collection of professional materials. The library is an integral element of teacher preparation programs and reflects an institution's pedagogical strategy. It provides the means for individualized instruction and independent study as well as the means for more varied patterns of teaching. It is the instrumentality for providing the student with a variety of ideas as well as a breadth of outlook. It is also inseparably linked with the quality of the professorate and with the productivity of its research and service activities. The quality of the schools in which teacher preparation programs are offered is directly linked with the quality of their libraries. And precisely in this area where NCATE should be clear and specific the Standards are weak and even misleading.
So-called Standards The Standards are arranged n two parts. Each deals with a separate level of schooling. The first is applicable to basic studies for the preparation of teachers (nursery school through secondary school) including five-year and M.A.T. (Master of Arts in Teaching) programs. The second is for course work beyond the baccalaureate level and includes programs for the training of research workers. In parallel, for each level of teacher education there is a standard presumably applicable to the library. That for a basic program reads: "The library is adequate to support the instruction, research, and services pertinent to each teacher education program." That for the advanced programs reads: "The library provides resources that are adequate to support instruction, independent study, and research required for each advanced program." The accompanying preambles and questions are designed to elicit information to show how the library is achieving the recommended level. For example, one question is phrased to show that an institution, in maintaining and improving the quality of its library holdings, gives serious consideration to the recommendations of its faculty. The question is a trite one. This is not to say that most serious consideration should not be given to the recommendations of the faculty. On the contrary, the library would be meaningless without the necessary linkage to the classroom faculty. The guidelines' question simply fails to display an appreciation for the necessary partnership of teacher, librarian, and student in accomplishing the goals of an instructional program. It fails to appreciate the role of the professional librarian—particularly of the librarian with a subject specialization —who might even help keep the faculty member up-to-date in his field.
A second question asks whether in developing the library serious consideration is given to the recommendations of appropriate national professional organizations and learned societies. The question strikes a note of judicious authority. How could one argue with the dicta of national professional organizations and learned societies? In any case, NCATE was asked to name several of these organizations. When the five organizations named were queried, each responded to the effect that they did not make such recommendations! Here are several of the responses. "I am sorry to report that our Association has not developed a bibliography which would be of assistance to you," the National Association of Secondary School Principals responded. The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development reported that "... this Association has not developed recommendations in this area." The American Personnel and Guidance Association responded: "... our Association has made no recommendations respecting library holdings in this area of guidance and counseling." Etc.
A third question asks whether consideration has been given to the recommendations drawn from a nationally recognized list (or lists) of books and periodicals. Unfortunately, such lists are not identified. It is not clear whether what is meant is the Charles B. Shaw's List of Books for College Libraries published by the American Library Association in 1931; or the lists of the Lamont Library at Harvard University, the Undergraduate Library of the University of Michigan, or the Books for College Libraries (1967) prepared for the University of California's New Campus Program. None of these claims to provide for teacher education programs, nor do they in fact. The most comprehensive annotated bibliography of books currently available for education is the New York University List of Books in Education (New York, 1968), and even this would not meet the needs of advanced educational programs.
To complete the facade, other questions are phrased which deal with access to library holdings and library expenditures. The possible answers, however, are immaterial. For example, the question regarding library finances reads: "What is the annual record of library expenditures for the total library and for teacher education during the past five years?" Teacher preparation programs exist in so many different settings, in large universities and in small colleges, that the possible answer to this question is utterly meaningless. There are other serious shortcomings in the so-called Standards. The questions fail to provide an adequate differentiation between a library designed for a college level program, and a library organized to support university research and doctoral programs. And the major object of a library in support of research programs, to confront the researcher or clinician with ongoing or projected research or clinical practice, is lost. Further, although the Standards describe the library as "... the principal educational materials resource and information storage and retrieval center of an institution," an appropriate verbal obeisance to modernity, no appreciation of the possible interpretive services or practices of modern information science is indicated. In addition, the Standards fail to deal with the library as representing a combination of resources (in all media), staff, services, and facilities.
The Standards as presently written will not help establish education libraries as "information storage and retrieval centers," nor enhance their capabilities of supporting preparation programs for professional school personnel. Their failure to make specific recommendations -- establish standards, in fact -- represents a disservice to faculty, students, and librarians of teacher preparation institutions, as well as to the public which depends upon them.
In illustration, consider what might occur. Parents in Minnesota bring up a son or daughter, and with great hope send their youngster to a teacher preparation college. This is to an NCATE accredited school with an inadequate education library. The aspiration of student and parents is that the ensuing educational experiences will produce a teacher who will find a lifetime of social usefulness and satisfaction in professional service. What is the outcome? The student is tracked into a second-rate educational experience and becomes a second-rate teacher. The teaching profession, the public, and the children are bilked.
Help or Hindrance In another instance of professional irresponsibility NCATE accredited an institution in Puerto Rico to offer Masters degrees. According to NCATE the professors offering such programs should be competent in research and involved in writing. But did NCATE determine that adequate library facilities were available to support the work of such a faculty? In Puerto Rico the development of research library resources in education is a matter of urgency. The well-being of the people of Puerto Rico is dependent on their being equipped with the tools which only education can provide. The history of education in Puerto Rico demonstrates the willingness of the people of the Commonwealth to allocate the necessary resources. Only continuing programs of research will enable these resources to be used effectively. Further, the matter of research in education in Puerto Rico and the solution of educational problems is basic to the solution of educational problems in a number of mainland United States cities, as well as in other areas of Latin America. Did NCATE help or hinder the cause of education by overlooking the inadequacy of supporting library resources in Puerto Rico? The answer is visible in many of our Eastern cities.
NCATE's evident reliance upon poorly formulated standards is malfeasance in office. Its toleration of teacher preparation programs with substandard educational resources—substandard teacher preparation programs—has encouraged different educational programs for the poor and the rich. Such differences threaten our traditional reliance upon public education and are hardly in keeping with the democratic aspirations of the American people.
NCATE's culpability is further apparent when one considers the massive and complex educational problems to be solved. How can we educate an urban population with apparatus devised for a rural society? How can we teach the new and heterogeneous masses brought into the arena of the educational process with a teaching staff equipped and conditioned to work with a homogeneous and like-minded student body? Where will we find the resources to provide the quality education so necessary for all of the people's children to live together in peace, in prosperity, in a rational social order? When we turn to the professional policing agency, NCATE, and its constituent organizations for a solution, it is appalling to discover that this don't-rock-the-boat bureaucracy is a part of the problem. Instead of providing enlightened and energetic leadership, NCATE is the silent partner in a political decision to uphold the status quo.
A remedy must be sought. NCATE must either get out of the accreditation business or, as a first step, rewrite the Standards at once. Revision would require a new and thorough national study of the education library as it presently exists as well as a conceptualization of what such libraries should be. Only after the necessary information is assembled could standards be written which would establish a "floor" or basic level for such libraries and make provision for their progressive improvement.
The data gathering and deliberation should involve not only NCATE but also the appropriate accreditation and liaison committees of the American Library Association, particularly the Education and Behavioral Science Librarians Subsection of the Association of College and Research Libraries. Also involved should be the expertise of the Special Libraries Association and the American Association for Information Science. In addition, NCATE and its constituent organizations should muster support for a National Library of Education which could provide the leadership so well exemplified by the National Library of Medicine and the National Library of Agriculture for their respective fields. For NCATE and its associated organizations anything less would represent a continuing crime against the children of America.
1 National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. Standards for Accreditation of Teacher Education. Washington, D.C.: National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, 1970. NCATE represents five constituent organizations: American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education; Council of Chief State School Officers; National School Boards Association; National Commission on Teacher Education and Professional Standards, National Education Association; and the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification.