Wednesday, May 23, 2007

NCATE and the Decline of Teacher Education

Last May 31 the New York Sun carried Jacob Gershman’s story about a Brooklyn College student named Goldwyn who was penalized for disagreeing with his professor about her views on diversity. Professor Parmar had asked other professors to evaluate the student’s “dispositions”, yet did not have a validated instrument to measure any such psychological trait. The Sun article quoted Professor KC Johnson, who was subsequently attacked by a group of education professors, backed by the faculty union, who demanded that the college suppress Professor Johnson’s extramural speech.

The Sun story alleged that Professor Parmar believes that “white people are oppressors.” Working with Steve Balch, president of the National Association of Scholars (NAS), I contacted Arthur Wise, president of NCATE. Dr. Wise’s associate. Jane Leibbrand, NCATE’s vice president of communications, responded to my inquiries. My purpose in contacting NCATE was to inquire as to the basis of NCATE’s claim that education programs are capable of assessing and ought to assess dispositions in general and social justice in particular. Such a claim would depend on NCATE’s having evidence that such dispositions are correlated with teacher performance. Yet it is unlikely that such evidence is available for several reasons. First, there would need to be a meaningful definition of “social justice.” Second, if there were such a definition, its adoption by education schools would violate the First Amendment to the Constitution because such a definition would constitute a test of political ideology, which the Supreme Court held to be unconstitutional in West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette in 1943. The fact that NCATE argues that many states have adopted dispositional assessment and have included "social justice" in their requirements for teacher education suggests how suppressive the education establishment has become.

In response to my e-mail, copied below, Ms. Leibbrand claims that the assessment of dispositions, to include “social justice” dispositions, is supported by Darling-Hammond and Bransford’s book Preparing Teachers for a Changing World. Ms. Leibbrand states:

You will find dispositions discussed as part of a framework for teacher learning, and part of a learning community, in the volume, along with research citations.

She points out that the Darling-Hammond and Branford book is 600 pages long and kindly points out that in “lay terms”:

one must have knowledge of subject matter, but an ability to relate to children, individually and collectively, is also a key to good teaching, as I'm sure you agree.”

She also points out that 30-odd states that have developed model state licensing standards based on NCATE’s INTASC standards and that dispositions are a part of the standards.

I acquired the Darling-Hammond and Branford book and read it. I did not find any evidence of validation coefficients of any disposition. Nor do Darling-Hammond and Branford define the concept of dispositions. Nor did I find any discussion of a “social justice” disposition. Social science in general and psychology in particular are incompetent to meaningfully define or measure social justice disposition for obvious reasons.

I responded to Ms. Leibbrand with this information, but she did not respond to my further inquiry. For example, she did not respond with a page number on which Darling-Hammond and Branford provide validation of social justice orientation. Disappointed at NCATE's inability to support its views, I contacted Professor Darling-Hammond with a direct inquiry. Professor Darling-Hammond, who is associated with NCATE, also did not respond to my inquiry.

Scholars such as Richard Boyatzis and consultants such as the Hay-McBer group have worked on developing measures of managerial competencies, but the measures that they have developed involved a lengthy validation process. Asking individual academic institutions to develop such measures is absurd. Moreover, even the Hay-McBer measures are better used for coaching than for assessment (as in hiring or promotional evaluation as they were used with Student Goldwyn) because they can be gamed and hence are likely useless for such purposes.

One question is how incompetence of the magnitude reflected by NCATE's standards, the state education departments, the state superintendants of education and the teachers' unions, all of which are associated with NCATE, has insinuated itself into the heart of the educational establishment. Another question is what the public can do about it.

The first question is largely answered in Diane Ravitch's books on the history of education reform. It would seem that the public education system has deteriorated to the point where it is beyond repair.

The solution would seem to be to involve decentralization of education and the junking of the public school systems. The current state-dominated system has failed. Vouchers, charter schools and home schooling would seem to be reasonable alternatives.

My and Ms. Leibbrand’s e-mails follow.

Arthur Wise, President
National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.
2010 Massachusetts Ave NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20036
Dear President Wise:

Sent Via E-mail and Hard Copy

I am an associate professor in the economics department of Brooklyn College and a member of the National Association of Scholars. I would like to bring to your attention an article that appeared in the New York Sun on May 31, 2005 concerning Brooklyn College's school of education and Professor Parmar's conflict with several students. In the course of the article The Sun mentions that your organization, the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education ("NCATE" or "the council") has required that the school of education adopt specific standards concerning dispositional assessment of students and, in addition, assessment of social justice orientation. I quote the Sun directly:

In 2000 the council introduced new standards for accrediting education schools. Those standards incorporated the concept of dispositions, which the agency maintains ought to be measured...

To drive home the notion that education schools ought to evaluate teacher candidates on such parameters as attitude toward social justice, the council issued a revision of its accrediting policies in 2002 in a Board of Examiners Update. It encouraged schools to tailor their assessments of dispositions to the schools' guiding principles, which are known in the field as "conceptual frameworks." The council's policies say that if an education school "has described its vision for teacher preparation as 'Teachers as agents of change' and has indicated that a commitment to social justice is one disposition it expects of teachers who can become agents of change, then it is expected that unit assessments include some measure of a candidate's commitment to social justice."
On behalf of the National Association of Scholars, I would like to make several requests and inquiries, as follows:

1. May I please have a copy of the 2000 standards and the 2002 Board of Examiners update to which the Sun article refers?
2. May I have a copy of any available evidence (or citations of published research upon which you have relied) that validate (1)college or teacher assessment of student dispositions in general; (2) college or teacher assessment of "social justice orientation"; (3) any approach whatsoever to assessment of "social justice orientation" or teacher measurement of "student disposition" and which you have relied on in setting this standard?
3. May I have a citation of any other published rationale upon which you have relied in setting the standard and update?
4. May I have a copy of any publicly available evidence of due diligence on NCATE's part in setting this standard, such as minutes of meetings, internal memoranda, statistical studies or citations of published research upon which the standards were set?
5. May I have a list of institutions to whom such standards apply?
I thank you in advance for your assistance. My mailing address and phone number follow:

Mitchell Langbert, Ph.D.

Dr. Langbert:

As I mentioned in my previous email, dispositions were incorporated into state teacher preparation standards through INTASC in the early 1990s. In lay terms, one must have knowledge of subject matter, but an ability to relate to children, individually and collectively, is also a key to good teaching, as I'm sure you agree. Dispositions gets at this aspect of teaching, by looking at things such as fairness---does the teacher call on a few students repeatedly, and never call on other students? Does the teacher interact respectfully with the students, or yell at them? Etc. etc. I'm sure you would agree that these are important facets of the job that should be taken into account.

The nation's top scholars have developed scholarly consensus on the foundational knowledge that teachers should have before teaching autonomously. They have set forth their conceptions in a volume entitled, Preparing Teachers for a Changing World. It is available at . It is a 600 page volume with an extensive bibliography. The Preface to the volume states that the volume "outlines core concepts and strategies that should inform initial teacher focuses on content considered essential based on strong professional consensus and on research evidence." You will find dispositions discussed as part of a framework for teacher learning, and part of a learning community, in the volume, along with research citations. There is an emerging volume of research on dispositions, which are tied to teacher skills with children. You can scan ERIC or google. The field considered all of this in including dispositio! ns in the standards.

Jane Leibbrand
Vice President for Communications

Dr. Langbert:

Here is relevant information for you on NCATE's treatment of dispositions.

1. Statement on NCATE and Dispositions

2. Copy of INTASC Standards with dispositions:

Here is information from INTASC, the group of 34 states that have developed model state licensing standards. Dispositions are a part of the standards.

INTASC homepage that explains the model state licensing standards

See Core Standards link. The dispositions start on about p. 14, but read through the beginning to get an idea of what it is talking about.

2. Copy of the 2000 Standards is at under the section called 'unit standards.'

3. Copy of the Fall 2002 BOE Update at

4. List of NCATE accredited institutions:

Jane Leibbrand
Vice President for Communications
2010 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Suite 500
Washington, D.C. 20036
tel. 202/466-7496
fax: 202/296-6620

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