By Tim Leeds
Dr. Lilburn Wesche was at Montana State University-Northern last week to help achieve the goal of national accreditation for the university's teacher education program.
"My goal is to help (the university teacher education program)," Wesche said. "Whatever they need, I'll provide. Anything they need to get national accreditation."
Wesche, a professor emeritus at Northwest Nazarene College, has been hired to help MSU-Northern become accredited under the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education's (NCATE) new accreditation requirements.
Wesche met with faculty and members of the university administration Friday afternoon, and held working meetings Friday night and Saturday with members of the university working to gain NCATE accreditation and faculty and staff of local k-12 schools.
Dr. Korinne Tande, dean and chair of the teacher education department at the university, said the focus during Wesche's visit was on assessment.
"Lilburn's here to kick off our new way of looking at things," she said.
Tande said NCATE has taken the ten standards previously used for accreditation and condensed them down to six standards. She said nothing has been taken out of the standards, but some standards have been placed in different categories.
Tande said a major part of the NCATE 2000 standards is in performance based assessment.
"They're not looking at what we do," she said, "they're looking at what the (teacher education) candidates are doing."
She said the new NCATE assessment standards are outcome based. The assessment is an ongoing evaluation of the performance of the candidates and graduates of the program, she said.
Tande said the question before was how many credits the university was teaching their students.
"Now, it's what effect we're having on students, and what effect they're having on k-12 students," she said.
Wesche said in order to be accredited, schools must demonstrate that they made something happen; that they've made a productive teacher. He said the teachers who graduate must demonstrate working ability as well as knowledge about teaching.
"(They must) know how to teach, and also demonstrate that they are able to teach," he said.
Tande said this is a new process. The new NCATE standards will not be in effect until the fall of 2001, and while some schools have used performance based assessment, there isn't much currently in place to use as models.
Tande said there are about 30 colleges and universities working to be approved under the new standards, and the MSU-Northern accreditation team will be seeking information on what other schools are doing.
She said since this is a new standard, NCATE will continue to accept plans of action rather than actual use of programs until 2003. All plans will have to be in place at that time, she said.
Tande said the old evaluation of grading will not be enough under the new standards. She said this is simply not accurate and wide enough in scope to cover NCATE's new ongoing performance standards.
Lilburn said the much of the assessment will be through observation. He said the candidates and graduates will be observed in the classroom to evaluate their ability. He said case studies, videotape evaluations and reflective self-study will be part of the evaluation.
Tande said involvement of the k-12 schools in the area is crucial to the success of the accreditation process. She said the state requirements as well as NCATE standards look for connections between the education department and local schools.
She said she feels that is necessary for the success of any education program anyway.
"Teacher education programs can't be successful without their k-12 partners," she said.