Preparing Teachers for Diverse Student Learners: A Multi-Institution Analysis of NCATE Accreditation Applications
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Teacher education programs are in a primary position to impact teacher candidates' abilities to meet the needs of diverse student learners. While the potential is there, diverse student learners also face crippling achievement gaps and teachers who feel unprepared to meet their needs. The achievement gap, dissatisfaction of new teachers with their preparation for teaching, and the cultural mismatch between teachers and their students underscores the need for more effective preparation of teachers for diverse student learners. This study and the corresponding research questions are based on a theory of action that professional accreditation is a means for ensuring that teacher preparation programs provide highly effective teachers for PK-12 schools who, in turn, are capable of ensuring that all students learn.
Using a qualitative grounded theory methodology, this study examines the eleven teacher preparation programs or institutions rated as "target" by the accrediting agency, the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), from Fall 2008 to Fall 2009, in how they prepare teacher-candidates to meet the diverse needs of learners. Specifically, documents produced during the NCATE accreditation process are analyzed to address three research questions: (1) What are the diversity proficiencies units expect of their candidates and how do they compare across units?; (2) What are the assessment tools used to provide evidence about candidates' proficiencies related to diversity?; and (3) How is assessment data used to improve the units' programs and candidates' abilities to work with diverse student learners?.
The elements most-frequently appearing in units' diversity proficiencies were understanding diversity or student differences, adapting instruction, demonstrating attitudes of respect or sensitivity, focusing on the learning environment, and incorporating family and the community. Surveys of alumni, employers, and exit surveys were the assessment tools most frequently used to evaluate entire programs. Observations by candidates, assessment forms completed by university supervisors or cooperating teachers, and observations of candidates were the tools most frequently used to assess student teaching or other field experiences. Lesson plans, class discussions, and profiles of specific students or groups were the assessments used most frequently in conjunction with specific courses. The reported uses of assessment data included course or curriculum adjustments, staffing decisions, adjustments to assessment tools, or related faculty research. Finally, implications for both teacher education programs and NCATE are explored.