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National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education

Mission, Number of Accredited Institutions, Process, History, Influence

The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) is the accrediting body for colleges and universities that prepare teachers and other professional specialists for work in elementary and secondary schools. The NCATE accreditation process aims to ensure that accredited institutions produce competent, caring, and qualified teachers and other professional school personnel who can help all students learn.

NCATE is a nonprofit, 501 (c)(3), nongovernmental coalition of more than thirty national associations representing the education profession at large. The associations appoint representatives to NCATE's policy boards. The boards develop NCATE standards, policies, and procedures. Membership on policy boards includes representatives from organizations of (1) teacher educators, (2) teachers, (3) state and local policymakers, and (4) professional specialists. See Table 1 for a list of NCATE member organizations.


Accountability and improvement are central to NCATE's mission. The NCATE accreditation process determines whether schools, colleges, and departments of education meet demanding standards for the preparation of teachers and other school specialists. Through this process, NCATE seeks to provide assurance to the public that graduates of accredited institutions have acquired the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to help all students learn.

Providing leadership for reform in teacher preparation is also central to NCATE's mission. Through standards that focus on systematic assessment and performance-based learning, NCATE encourages accredited institutions to engage in continuous improvement based on accurate and consistent data. In this way, NCATE ensures that accredited institutions remain current, relevant, and productive, and that graduates of these institutions are able to have a positive impact on P–12 students.

Number of Accredited Institutions

As of 2002, more than six hundred institutions were a part of the NCATE system; 539 of these institutions are accredited, and another 80 to 108 are candidates for accreditation. NCATE institutions produce approximately two-thirds of new teacher graduates in the United States each year.


Those institutions interested in attaining national professional accreditation complete an intent-to-seek accreditation form. A mutually convenient date for an on-site visit is set, usually two years in advance of the visit. The institution prepares a self-study, which explains how it believes it meets the NCATE standards. The self-study is sent to examining team members two months prior to the visit. Team members review the self-study and other documents, if available on the institution's website, before the visit. A five-or six-person team visits the institution, arriving on Saturday and leaving the following Wednesday. The weekend is spent examining documents of the institution (student evaluations, copies of curricula, student work, minutes of faculty meetings, etc.). Monday and Tuesday are devoted to interviewing faculty, students, staff, and teachers/principals at clinical sites. The team works in the evening to determine how well the institution is addressing the NCATE expectations. Wednesday at mid-day, an exit interview is held with the head of the education unit, explaining the team's recommendations.

The team finalizes its report in thirty days and returns it to NCATE's office. NCATE sends the report to the institution. The institution may wish to issue a rejoinder if it believes the team missed important information. All of the documents are sent to NCATE's Unit Accreditation Board, which makes a final accreditation decision.


NCATE was founded in 1954. Five groups were instrumental in the creation of NCATE: the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification, the National Education Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and the National School Boards Association. When NCATE was founded as an independent accrediting body, it replaced the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education as the agency responsible for accreditation in teacher education.


The NCATE of the new millennium is implementing a performance-based system of accreditation developed during the 1990s. This system is enhancing both accountability and improvement in educator preparation, as it requires compelling evidence of effective candidate performance for institutions to become accredited. Institutions must show that candidates know the subjects they plan to teach and that they can teach effectively so that students learn.

NCATE standards are increasingly the norm in teacher preparation, and NCATE serves as a resource to the states. Twenty-eight states have adopted or adapted NCATE standards as the state standards for teacher preparation, and seventeen states expect NCATE accreditation of all public colleges with teacher preparation units. In addition, NCATE works in partnership with forty-six states to conduct joint reviews of colleges of education, designed to streamline the quality assurance process and to mesh state and professional standards.

NCATE is part of a continuum of teacher preparation and development that begins with pre-service preparation, and continues with stages of teacher licensure and advanced professional development. Standards in each phase of teacher development are aligned for the first time, providing new coherence to teacher preparation and development.



NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR ACCREDITATION OF TEACHER EDUCATION. 2001. Professional Standards for the Accreditation of Schools, Colleges, and Departments of Education. Washington, DC: National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.




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