If you are interested in pursuing a master’s degree focused on education, choosing which degree program to enroll in is a big decision. Online master’s degree programs like those offered by Emporia State University (ESU) can provide working teachers a convenient and affordable path toward earning their degree. But convenience and affordability are not the only factors to consider. The quality of education, as well as the reputation of a school and its graduates, is also important. So how can you know and trust the quality and reputation of a degree program as a prospective student?
ESU’s online master’s degree programs in education are accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). The standards that educational institutions must meet to be accredited by NCATE can go a long way toward ensuring prospective students of a program’s quality and reputation. Plus, a master’s from an NCATE-accredited program is highly regarded, and sometimes required, by many employers. Understanding the value and standards of NCATE accreditation can be a great help in the search for a quality master’s degree program for educators.
What Does Accreditation Represent?
At the basic level, accreditation can help you as a prospective student trust that a degree program lives up to its claims. In addition, the accreditation standing of a graduate’s completed degree program assures prospective employers of a job candidate’s training, skills, and knowledge.
Whether they are regional/institutional or focus on a specific profession (professional or “pragmatic”), accrediting organizations evaluate degree programs according to a set of standards. Through a thorough process (as set forth by the accrediting agency) degree programs demonstrate how they meet or exceed each standard. If successful, those degree programs are granted accreditation for a set period of time. Accreditation is not a one-time seal of approval awarded by the accrediting body — it is an ongoing process to ensure continuous improvement. To continue to hold accreditation, degree programs undergo periodic rounds of review, demonstration, and evaluation.
Are Accrediting Agencies Also Held to Certain Standards by an Authority in Accreditation?
Further oversight or legitimization of accrediting agencies is carried out by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the U.S. Department of Education (ED). Accreditation agencies can pursue being “recognized” (not “accredited”) by CHEA and/or ED through an evaluative process that maintains standards of the agencies and the institutions they accredit. CHEA is an independent organization, while ED is a governmental body.
What Is the History and Specific Purpose of NCATE?
NCATE was started by a group of educational organizations in 1954. The basic purpose of NCATE was to promote and maintain excellence and continuous improvement in the teaching profession. NCATE replaced the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) as the national authority for evaluating and accrediting teacher education programs through intensive peer review.
This accreditation process was voluntary on the part of teacher preparation programs. Though, some states eventually came to require teacher preparation programs to be accredited by NCATE. NCATE was recognized by both ED and CHEA.
What Standards Must Teacher Education Schools Meet to Be Awarded NCATE Accreditation?
As NCATE has been around for over half a century, its standards for accreditation have changed and evolved constantly, undergoing regular revisions. In NCATE’s 2008 revision, the standards were as follows:
- Candidate Knowledge, Skills, and Professional Dispositions
- Assessment System and Unit Evaluation
- Field Experiences and Clinical Practice
- Faculty Qualifications, Performance, and Development
- Unit Governance and Resources
In the document, Professional Standards for the Accreditation of Teacher Preparation Institutions, these standards were explained in detail, along with criteria for successful peer evaluation, self-evaluation, and further demonstration. The NCATE Board of Examiners Report on the last Continuous Improvement Pilot Visit to ESU is a good example of the thoroughness of NCATE’s review process.
What About NCATE and TEAC Merging to Form CAEP?
In recent years NCATE and its formal rival accreditation agency, the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC), joined forces to form the unified Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). ESU’s teacher education programs (and others) that have been accredited by NCATE retain their accreditation status through the end of their standard accreditation period. Following that, the accreditation renewal process will be done through CAEP.
CAEP’s set of five standards are in part a modernized version of those set forth by NCATE. CAEP’s standards also incorporate aspects of TEAC’s areas of focus, such as demonstrating efficacy of a teacher preparation program through evaluating the performance of program graduates. In essence, they are focusing not just on the input of a degree program, but also its output as seen by the effectiveness of teachers it produces.
A degree program’s accreditation status can tell you quite a bit about what you will gain from that program, both in quality education and in the real value of the degree after you graduate. NCATE has long been the standard for accreditation in teacher education. And as NCATE and TEAC now become CAEP, the unified accreditation agency has the potential to continue promoting excellence in teacher education on an even grander scale.
Learn more about ESU’s online master’s degree programs in Education.