The professional education unit must include in its accreditation review all initial teacher preparation and advanced programs offered by the institution for the purpose of preparing teachers and other professional education personnel to work in pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade settings. This includes all programs that have an established sequence of courses designed to prepare individuals for professional work in pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade settings, regardless of where the programs may be administratively located.
The NCATE scope includes all programs designed to lead to a degree, licensure or certification, endorsement, and/or other credential to teach or work in P–12 schools. The scope also includes all programs that may not lead to a state licensure or certification but nonetheless prepare individuals for professional work in pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade settings (for example, early childhood education programs in states that do not require a license for this field). In addition, the scope includes all tracks, areas of specialization, or concentrations within programs that prepare individuals for professional work in pre-kindergarten through twelth grade settings. Some programs may be administratively located outside of the school, college, or department of education (e.g., school counseling may be located in the School of Counseling and Social Work, or music education may be located in the Music Department). All programs included in the NCATE scope are expected to contribute to the unit’s meeting of the six NCATE standards.
Most institutions must indicate on their intent forms any off-campus, alternate route, and distance learning programs that are offered for the preparation of education professionals. The team chair can then ensure that team members review these programs to assess whether they meet standards. Most of the arrangements for visiting or reviewing these programs are made during the previsit. On occasion, however, the team discovers one or more of these programs during the visit. Even at that late date, the team is expected to apply the standards to these programs and describe both strengths and concerns in the BOE report narrative. Areas for improvement may be cited for one or more of these special programs in a way similar to citing concerns related to a specific program field as described in the previous section.
All campuses and sites that offer programs for the preparation of P–12 school personnel should have been disclosed on the intent form submitted to NCATE approximately two years before the on-site visit. These programs must be included in the NCATE review.
BOE teams must ensure that off-campus programs meet standards. Significant or numerous areas for improvement at one site can jeopardize the accreditation of the unit.
Decisions on the review of off-campus sites are usually made at the previsit, although the team chair and/or the NCATE coordinator may need to consult with NCATE staff to finalize plans. An on-site visit to the off-campus location is not always required, particularly for programs with few candidates or programs located far from the main campus. The team chair may make other arrangements for visiting the site and interviewing faculty and candidates. The team might conduct phone interviews, survey candidates via e-mail, or interview faculty and candidates via teleconferencing or two-way video. Off-campus candidates and faculty could arrange to be on the main campus during the BOE visit. If the off-campus program serves a large number of candidates or prepares educators for a number of fields, one or more of the team members should visit the site. At the request of the team chair, additional team members may be assigned to assist the team in collecting data. State team members on joint NCATE/State teams sometimes are asked to visit off-campus sites prior to the visit. On occasion, one or more team members visit off-campus sites on the Thursday or Friday before the team meets on Saturday of the visit.
BOE teams must consider the off-campus programs as they collect evidence and write the BOE report. They should look for evidence that candidates in off-campus programs perform as well on state licensure exams as candidates on campus. The team may need to request specific data on off-campus programs, particularly as related to candidate performance. Differences between off-campus and on-campus programs should be described in the narrative for each standard. Questions to Assist the Team in the review of off-campus programs are included in this handbook.
Alternate Route Programs
All alternate route programs offered at an institution at the post-baccalaureate level and requiring the professional education unit’s recommendation for licensure must be included in the NCATE review. They include fifth-year programs for candidates with a bachelor’s degree in an academic field; candidates may or may not be eligible for a master’s degree at the end of the program. They include internship programs in which candidates are a traditional student teacher or the teacher of record. They also include non-traditional programs for the preparation of other school personnel. BOE teams should look for evidence of candidate performance throughout and at the end of the program. Differences between alternate route programs and traditional programs, including candidate performance, should be described in the BOE report.
Distance Learning Programs
In general, the principles that guide the review of off-campus programs apply to the review of distance learning programs as well. Guidelines for the review of distance learning programs begin on page 68. Distance learning programs are expected to meet NCATE standards at the same level as programs offered through traditional means.
Some institutions offer extensive professional education coursework via distance learning, but not full programs. BOE teams should ensure that the technology required to support large-scale distance learning offerings is sufficient. It is also important to ensure that programs offered in full or in part through distance learning are coherent and that candidates have access to resources and are provided with adequate advising and supervision. Teams should interview candidates in distance learning programs and faculty who use this delivery system. Team chairs sometimes use e-mail to solicit feedback from candidates in these programs. Assessment data that are disaggregated for candidates in distance learning programs should indicate if differences exist in the performance of candidates in these programs versus traditional programs.