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In 2016, the AACTE Board of Directors affirmed the following language representing their view of and aspirations for national accreditation in educator preparation. These principles aim to guide discussions among educators and other stakeholders about the role of accreditation in serving the public purposes of education.
AACTE affirms the importance of accreditation, particularly its role in assuring that the preparation of professional educators ultimately serves the interests and learning of PK-12 students. AACTE resolves that all providers of services to prepare education professionals be nationally accredited and all accreditors be nationally recognized. AACTE also affirms the importance of comprehensively accepted accreditation processes administered by an entity holding strong face validity among educator preparation programs and the public.
Accreditation in educator preparation serves the public’s interest by assuring the highest quality professional preparation of educators and thereby promoting the growth and development of all learners. The accreditation agency upholds transparent, credible, and consistent standards by which professionals can benchmark their own progress. Further, the agency possesses the capacity to conduct processes that allow for reflective engagement by member institutions. Accreditation represents an acknowledgment of shared responsibility between the accreditor and the profession to prepare highly qualified professional educators.
THE QUALITY PRINCIPLE: Accreditation Improves the Quality of Education
Accreditation adds value to the education enterprise by pursuing specific goals: to assure the ability of graduates from accredited programs to serve all learners, to improve programs in accredited institutions, and to provide stronger credibility and quality assurance to the public. The accreditation process encourages self-evaluation and self-analysis by programs as well as innovation and experimentation in educator preparation, all toward the goal of ultimately improving learning for PK-12 students. Accreditation promotes dialogue in the profession at large and among all stakeholders. The accreditation process serves a quality assurance function, requiring all providers to address standards of excellence set forth by the profession.
THE EVIDENCE PRINCIPLE: Accreditation Is Grounded in Evidence of Effectiveness/Graduate Quality
Accreditation standards and processes are based on a strong foundation of evidence grounded in the best research and practice of the professional community. The research and evidence base inform the data and documentation required for accreditation as well as the required demonstration of linkage among program quality, performance of professional educators, and impact on PK-12 student learning. Accreditation standards are supported by reliable and valid measures and research. These measures inform evidence-based practice and the documentation needed for accreditation.
THE CONSENSUS PRINCIPLE: Accreditation Reflects Consensus on Best Practices
Accreditation standards reflect consensus and participation from the entire professional community. Educators across the range of credentialed professional roles are involved in accreditation governance, policy, standards development, review processes, and evaluation of the enterprise. The governing consensus reflects a balance of respect for specialized expertise and for certified knowledge of practice and experience in differentiated professional roles. Deliberations on standards and accreditation review approaches serve to clarify the existing consensus, stimulate ongoing development of new knowledge, and promote experimentation and innovation. Members of the profession from both higher education and PK-12 have a significant voice in developing state policy on the linkage between national accreditation and state oversight of educator preparation units and programs.
THE SERVICE PRINCIPLE: The Accreditation Process Is Transparent and in Service to the Profession and the Public
Accreditation is credible and acceptable to both internal and external clients and publics. This credibility is based on elements outlined in the previously stated principles: accreditation adds to quality, is grounded in evidence, and reflects professional consensus. Public credibility is also dependent on the transparency of accreditation data and decisions. Credibility in the policy sphere requires that evidence from accreditation reviews be accepted for institutional, professional, state, and federal accountability purposes. Professional credibility requires that members of the professional education community and other stakeholders regularly monitor the accreditation process to ensure that it fulfills these principles.
Educator preparation programs have a core mission to prepare educators for our nation’s schools. The governing consensus driving national accreditation must reflect the profession and be credible as well as supportive in process, complexity, transparency, reporting, and technical assistance. Ultimately, compliance mandates do not move the profession forward. Accreditation is a form of systemic reflection that elevates the profession through continuous improvement, and we affirm this as the primary objective for professional educator accreditation.