Friday, February 18, 2005

NCATE story catches fire

A big thank-you to all the education bloggers who linked to my story about the politicization of teacher certification (Totalitarian Shadows). The many blogger links triggered an avalanche of visitors to my site. Maybe a critical mass is building that could put an end to this grave abuse of ed school accreditation powers.

You can read the NCATE document here. The relevant passage can be found under "ASSESSING DISPOSITIONS."

The entire passage reads:

In many instances, teams describe a unit using a standardized instrument that measures dispositions such as punctuality, dress, observation of rules and regulations, etc. While these are important aspects of professional behavior and units may assess these, unit assessments must also reflect the dispositions identified in its conceptual framework and in professional and state standards. Often team reports do not indicate any connection between dispositions specified in the conceptual framework and dispositions that are assessed. For example, if the unit 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. If assessments do not exist, this should be stated in the report under Standard 1 and an area for improvement should be cited.

NCATE claims to have been given its powers by the U.S. Secretary of Education. Judging by the date of the publication this authority dates back to the Clinton era.

Maybe the current ed department head should pay some attention.

NCATE imposes a lot of highly questionable requirements on ed schools that I would like to address in a future post. These questionable requirements deal primarily with what is termed "best practices" and a deterministic conception of skin color.

See here for more on NCATE's dispositions.


Stiles said...

Isn't the correspondent stretching the meaning of "definition" quite a bit? I look at the NCATE unit standards and the glossary definition is

"Dispositions. The values, commitments, and professional ethics that influence behaviors toward students, families,
colleagues, and communities and affect student learning, motivation, and development as well as the educator’s own
professional growth. Dispositions are guided by beliefs and attitudes related to values such as caring, fairness, honesty,
responsibility, and social justice. For example, they might include a belief that all students can learn, a vision of
high and challenging standards, or a commitment to a safe and supportive learning environment."

Yes, the term social justice is included. But who would object to the example statement provided?

As I read the assessment document, NCATE is stating the obvious. If a department has identified a program criteria, it should be prepared to assess it. It doesn't read to me as an recommendation to have a litmus test.

Is the problem really NCATE, which is only trying to advance the expectation that ed schools assess their stated objectives? Or should the scrutiny fall on institutions that have dispositions criteria that are essentially ideological litmus tests?

Instructivist said...

"Is the problem really NCATE, which is only trying to advance the expectation that ed schools assess their stated objectives? Or should the scrutiny fall on institutions that have dispositions criteria that are essentially ideological litmus tests?"

Your argument has surface plausibility but I think misses a key point.

NCATE as an accrediting agency is in the business of telling ed schools what to do. One thing it should definitely tell ed schools is that an ideological litmus test is forbidden.

Instead, NCATE and the interlocking organizational ed complex keeps dangling the "social justice" lure in front of the schools' noses. Hint, hint: don't forget "social justice".

"Social justice" is a highly charged ideological code word and has no business being a criterion for teacher competence.

Stiles said...

I fully agree that NCATE should discourage ideological litmus tests in certification programs.

The issue just doesn't get under my skin too much. I see several example dispositions and a demonstration statement that anyone would find acceptable...and then that one phrase, "social justice." I must have been fortunate in my career to date, but I not seen social justice employed as an ideological cudgel. If I had to pick an objection, it would be to question the utility of applying criteria whose assessment is inherently subjective, regardless of any ideological freighting.

Yet, it seems to me that technical competence is not enough. There should be some professional ethical standard guiding us in our vocation. A committment to challenging standards and teaching all students well strikes me as mandatory. To me, that's social justice. If others would apply it as something closer to critical pedagogy, then I would part company.

It would be ironic if FedEd objected to "social justice" as one of the primary justifications for NCLB is that civil rights is a federal issue with NCLB being a social justice policy instrument.

I enjoy your blog very much. Always thoughtful and often provocative.

Quincy said...

Stiles - You're lucky that you haven't heard "social justice" as a far-left ideological nightstick. It's a hot word that is impossible to object to without incurring ad hominem attacks from the one who invokes it. This wouldn't be a problem if most people still thought that ad hominems debased those who used them, but that's not the case.

Instructivist - Glad to be of service. It's something I think should be out there in the blogosphere for all to see and fisk. Keep up the good work!

Instructivist said...

"Social justice" is not some harmless thing.

See here:

Anonymous said...

Dispositions at work: