FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Responses to frequently asked questions about the NCATE/NAEYC program review are presented below. We welcome your feedback to ensure that the information is useful.
- What is NCATE accreditation all about?
- Can you tell me more about what the “unit” is?
- I’ve heard the term “SPA” mentioned. What is a SPA?
- What is the difference between “nationally recognized” and “accredited” programs?
- How many NCATE-accredited institutions are there?
- How many NAEYC-approved programs are in NCATE-accredited institutions?
- What are NCATE “unit standards”?
- What is the relationship between NCATE unit standards and NAEYC standards?
- When were the standards created?
- I hear there have been changes in the report and review process. When did the changes take place?
- What are the steps in the NCATE accreditation process?
- Who is on the Board of Examiners team?
- How often does this review process occur?
- Does the institution have to do anything between BOE visits?
- What is the goal of the accreditation process?
- What are the NAEYC professional preparation standards?
NCATE stands for the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education. It is an organization that accredits institutions that have professional education “units” (that is, colleges, schools, or departments of education) in the United States. NCATE accreditation applies only to 4-year colleges and universities (baccalaureate and graduate degree programs), and does not apply to 2-year or community colleges. Its accreditation system helps to promote high-quality teacher education across the nation. The process occurs in conjunction with multiple specialty professional associations, like NAEYC, and in multiple stages over about two years. It requires a thorough self-study process and accounting of how the NCATE and, in the case of early childhood programs, NAEYC standards are met. Early childhood programs must demonstrate evidence that candidates meet NAEYC’s five standards for professional preparation. NCATE is officially recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
The “unit” is the body within the institution that makes decisions about education students or candidates. This could be the department, college, or school of education within an institution, or another entity.
SPA stands for Specialty Professional Association. SPAs are national associations representing the education profession, such as NAEYC, the Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI), Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), and National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). NCATE is a coalition of more than 30 such associations. Approximately 20 of these SPAs have NCATE-approved standards. NAEYC is one of these specialty professional associations.
National recognition means that NAEYC approves the program and has determined that candidates from the program meet all five NAEYC standards. Accreditation occurs only at the institutional level, and that is determined not by NAEYC, but by NCATE. In other words, NAEYC recognizes programs (that is, grants national recognition), and NCATE accredits institutions. An early childhood program must meet all five NAEYC standards to be nationally recognized by NAEYC, and its institution must be accredited for the decision of nationally recognized to be valid. Thus, an early childhood program might be recognized, but if its institution does not become accredited, that national recognition does not stand. However, an NCATE-accredited institution may have an early childhood program that was not recognized by NAEYC.
For a list of NCATE accredited institutions and nationally recognized NAEYC programs, go to http://www.ncate.org/institutions/listofaccredinst.asp
More than 700 institutions are NCATE accredited and another 100 are getting ready for accreditation; the number of institutional candidates for accreditation has almost tripled in the past five years (http://www.ncate.org/ncate/fact_sheet.htm).
There are approximately 225 early childhood programs that have received National Recognition from NAEYC. Not all NCATE-accredited institutions have early childhood programs, and those that do may not have an early childhood program that NAEYC determined Nationally Recognized. In addition, National Recognition is dependent upon the institution’s accreditation; therefore, a program recommended Nationally Recognized cannot be recognized if the institution overall does not become accredited.
NCATE unit standards (or “NCATE 2000 Standards”) are those standards or expectations that apply to all programs in the institution that prepare professionals to work in the field of education. All education programs within an institution must comply with the unit-level NCATE standards. These standards provide direction for programs, courses, teaching, candidate performance, scholarship, service, and unit accountability. For more information go to the NCATE website, www.ncate.org.
NCATE’s unit standards are broad and provide an umbrella for the more specific standards that apply to each specialty program (e.g., early childhood education, mathematics, physical education, special education). Under that umbrella, Specialty Professional Associations (SPAs), such as NAEYC, establish customized standards that apply to the specific education program in question. These SPA-established standards do not contradict the standards for the unit; rather, they establish a more specific set of expectations related to each specialty program. Programs must comply with NCATE’s unit standards and the standards of its designated SPA. NCATE has reviewed and approved NAEYC’s standards.
There are five NAEYC program-level standards, each comprised of several key elements. There are six NCATE standards. NCATE Standards 1 and 2 apply to candidate performance, and Standards 3 – 6 apply to unit capacity. Program reports center around the five NAEYC standards and NCATE Standard 1.
NCATE revised its unit standards in 2000. NAEYC revised its standards for Initial-licensure programs in 2001 and for Advanced programs in 2002. As a result of those revisions, the system is performance based; that is, programs must provide evidence that candidates have the knowledge and skills required of early childhood professionals and have the competencies to meet the five NAEYC standards. Programs must provide assessments, rubrics, and data as evidence of candidate performance on the standards.
NCATE implemented a new program review system in Fall 2004, when it piloted the revised system. Full implementation occurred in Spring 2005. NCATE continues to refine the system to ensure a smooth and high-quality process. Program report outlines from the previous system are no longer in use, having been replaced by the current program report templates. All report submissions now follow the current format, which relies on evidence from 6 – 8 key assessments.
As institutions prepare for an accreditation visit, multiple stages in the process occur over an 18-24 month period. For those institutions that have not been accredited previously, the initial accreditation process requires a thorough self-study and accounting of how the NCATE standards are met. This includes a series of program approval evaluations completed by various specialty programs (like NAEYC). The review of specialty program reports occurs prior to, and as part of, the institutional self-study. Once all of the institutional self-study materials are completed and submitted, an on-site visit is arranged. NCATE sends a Board of Examiners (BOE) team to the campus for a 4 ½ -day visit. In many cases, state reviews are conducted in partnership with NCATE reviews. During the visit, the team examines documents, interviews faculty, staff, and students, and draws conclusions about the fit of the program with the NCATE standards. The BOE reports their findings to the NCATE Unit Accreditation Board, which then determines compliance with the NCATE standards. The final report and determination of compliance serve as the foundation for the institution’s continuous improvement plan until the next visit, called the “continuing accreditation” visit.
BOE teams are composed of specialty program representatives, administrators, teachers, and department of education personnel.
An NCATE BOE team visits the institution every 7 years to evaluate compliance with NCATE standards, including compliance with specialty program standards.
Previously accredited institutions are required to submit yearly reports documenting their operations and progress toward any previously cited areas for improvement. Programs should be continuing to refine assessments and collect data for the next program report.
The NCATE accreditation process aims for a system of continuous improvement. The structure for the process is a dynamic one, with consistent review and revision at regular intervals for all constituents (NCATE, Specialty Program Associations, and institutions)—each of whom hopefully models continuous improvement. The process focuses on the assessment of quality professional preparation through formative evaluation, with a strong emphasis on documenting candidates’ performance, including their effects on children’s learning.
Standards are signposts that point the way to desired goals—in this case, goals for early childhood professionals to improve outcomes for young children by enhancing these future professionals’ knowledge and skills. Although early childhood professionals differ amongst each other in their responsibilities, the standards allow for a common knowledge and vision based on professional values and credible, relevant evidence. The standards apply across associate, baccalaureate, and graduate degree programs. The five standards for professional preparation focus on:
- Promoting child development and learning
- Building family and community relationships
- Observing, documenting, and assessing to support young children and families
- Teaching and learning
- Becoming a professional
To see the standards, key elements, rationales, rubrics, and expectations for evidence, visit the NAEYC Web for higher education faculty, or see Preparing Early Childhood Professionals: NAEYC’s Standards for Programs, which is available for purchase at www.naeyc.org/store.
- Who should submit an NAEYC program report to NCATE?
- I’m not sure I understand the difference between Initial and Advanced programs. Could you clarify?
- I’m not sure whether we should submit a report to NAEYC or ACEI. Are there any guidelines?
- If a program does not have any graduates yet, should we still submit a report?
- How do I get information from my institution about submitting a program report?
- Who reviews our early childhood program report?
- What are the possible decisions about our report?
- What if my program prepares teachers to work with a specific age group of young children, such as K - 3?
- Why do candidates in early childhood need to have knowledge about the whole spectrum if they are only planning to work with a specific age group?
- For the NCATE program report, do we need to disaggregate data according to candidate competence with different age groups?
- What if a program only requires field placements with one age group?
- How much data are required?
- What if my program addresses both special education (CEC) and early childhood (NAEYC) standards?
- What is the difference between “guidelines” and “standards”?
- What is the difference between “folio” and “program report”?
- My program’s last report to NAEYC was submitted under the old “guidelines.” Are reports submitted under the current NAEYC standards the same as those submitted under the old guidelines?
- How many NAEYC standards need to be met for a program to be nationally recognized?
- Does the program need to show that each element of each standard has been met?
- For Advanced programs, do all Essential Tools have to be met for recognition?
- What is “effects on student learning” in the context of early childhood?
- What is “content knowledge” for early childhood candidates?
- May our program use grades as an assessment of content knowledge?
- Our unit requires us to use certain assessments. May we use these unit-wide assessments for the report?
- I am faculty at a community college. Can my Associate degree program become accredited?
- What resources and technical assistance are available to programs to prepare NCATE program reports?
Institutions of higher education that seek NCATE accreditation and offer an Initial Licensure (Baccalaureate or Masters) or Advanced (Masters or PhD) degree program in early childhood education must prepare a program report for NAEYC review. NCATE and NAEYC define early childhood preparation programs as those that prepare students to work with children from birth through age 8. This includes programs that prepare candidates for kindergarten and primary-grades licensure, as well as younger children.
“Initial programs” are initial-licensure programs at the baccalaureate or masters level that lead to candidates’ initial licensure (first teaching license) in early childhood education.
“Advanced programs” are master’s and doctoral-level programs that expand on and provide greater focus or specialization for candidates’ knowledge, understanding and skills in early childhood. These programs are for candidates who already have their license to teach in early childhood education.
Any program that prepares candidates to work in a preK – grade 12 setting is required to submit a SPA report, according to NCATE, regardless of whether the program leads to licensure.
A chart further explaining the differences is available at Is my program Initial or Advanced?
Programs with a K – 3 or K – 4 certification may be unsure whether to submit to NAEYC or ACEI (the Association for Childhood Education International), which focuses on elementary education. The answer depends on the focus, philosophy, and identity of the program-does your program include a strong focus on building family relationships, understanding child development, and other aspects of the NAEYC foundation? Does it require candidates to have some knowledge through coursework (although not necessarily field work) about infants and toddlers? If so, the program may well be better reviewed by early childhood rather than elementary education faculty. However, if you're still not sure which program to submit to, please contact NAEYC or ACEI to discuss it.
As long as the program has at least one candidate enrolled or at least one completer in the past 3 years, the program should still submit a report. If, however, there are no candidates in the pipeline and no one has graduated from the program in the past 3 years, a program report is not required. (The 80% pass rate requirement does not apply to programs that do not have 10 completers over a 3-year period.)
When your institution decides to apply for NCATE accreditation, the institution will designate a contact person (e.g., a dean or program coordinator) to communicate with NCATE throughout the process. This contact person will provide information about the program reports to all specialized professional education programs at the institution. NCATE provides the materials to the contact person, who then distributes them to the faculty.
NAEYC-trained early childhood faculty, who are your peers at other U.S. colleges and universities, review the reports and make a recommendation about recognition to NAEYC. These reviewers are members of NAEYC’s NCATE Program Review Panel who participate in in-depth training before reviewing. They work in teams of two to three people. After reviewers provide feedback and a recommendation about national recognition in the form of a recognition report, an audit team, a handful of NAEYC’s most experienced reviewers, reviews the decision. Once consensus is reached, NAEYC posts the recognition report to NCATE, which then notifies the institution that the report is ready. (In some states, the state education agency reviews programs on behalf of NCATE and NAEYC.)
There are three possible decisions reviewers might make for your program:
- National Recognition: This means your program substantially meets the standards, although you may have some areas for improvement which may be related to standards assessments, scoring guides, or data. Consequences: Once the unit is accredited, the program will remain nationally recognized until the next unit accreditation decision is made. Areas for improvement should be addressed in your institution’s Annual Report Part C.
- National Recognition with Conditions: This means your program generally meets standards; however, one or more conditions must be remediated within 18 months to extend national recognition for the full 5-7 year accreditation period. Conditions are limited to one or more of the following: insufficient data; insufficient alignment among standards or scoring assessments or scoring guides; lack of quality in some assessments or scoring guides; or the NCATE requirement for an 80% pass rate on state licensure tests is not met. Consequences: You must submit a Response to Conditions Report within 18 months in order to maintain national recognition. If the conditions are not adequately remediated, the program’s status will change to Not Nationally Recognized. A new program report can be submitted to reapply for national recognition.
- Not Nationally Recognized: This means the standards that are not met are serious and more than a few in number OR are few in number but so fundamental that recognition is not appropriate. Consequences: You may submit a revised program report addressing unmet standards or a new program report within 18 months.
Programs often focus candidates’ preparation in a specific area of early childhood, such as K – 3 or Infants and Toddlers, especially when a program is in a state that designates licensure or certification in that specific area. For national recognition by NAEYC as an early childhood program, however, a program needs to demonstrate that candidates have exposure to learning and thinking about all young children across the full birth – age 8 range.
Programs facing difficulties in addressing the full range are typically K – 3 certification programs that have difficulty addressing the birth to age 3 years. Although NAEYC does not require all programs to provide intense preparation for work in the 0 – 3 range, it does require that all candidates gain some knowledge about and exposure to effective approaches for working with infants and toddlers. Likewise, programs emphasizing infant and toddler development should provide candidates with opportunities to learn about the development and learning of “older” young children (i.e., preschool – primary grade children).
Moreover, NAEYC strongly encourages programs to provide field or clinical experiences in at least two of the following age groups: infants and toddlers (ages 0 – 2), preK and kindergarten (ages 3 – 5), and primary (ages 6 – 8).
All candidates in early childhood programs should gain competence across the full birth – age 8 span for several reasons.
To truly understand the developmental progress of any child, a professional needs to understand the typical progress and milestones of development during early childhood as a whole, so they understand what comes before and after each developmental period.
Candidates may eventually work in states where the early childhood certification covers a different or wider age span (as recommended by NAEYC and ATE in their joint position statement).
Additionally, the inclusive nature of early childhood classrooms and the variable and episodic nature of development in the early years require early childhood professionals to have skills working with children of all ages. “Older” children may, for example, have developmental similarities to some aspects of infant/toddler development, regardless of chronological age.
Furthermore, the roles that early professionals may assume across their career—classroom teacher, faculty member, home visitor, trainer—are diverse and require knowledge of the full spectrum of the early childhood years.
No, programs do not need to disaggregate data according to knowledge and skills related to subperiods of development, such as infants, toddlers, pre-K, kindergarten, and primary. It is sufficient to discuss and document candidates’ opportunities to learn about various phases of child development in report narratives, such as the Sections I, IV, and V narratives. For example, narratives for a program with a K – 3 certification could explain that its child development courses and observation assignments include infants and toddlers, or how attention was given to adapting curriculum and teaching strategies for infants and toddlers. It is important that programs demonstrate through the narratives in the report that they are truly early childhood programs, in the fullest sense of the term, rather than a K – 3 program.
NCATE standards for field experience require clinical practice to be sufficiently extensive and intensive for candidates to demonstrate proficiencies in the professional roles for which they are preparing. In order to insure that prospective early childhood teachers are adequately prepared to work with young children from birth through age eight years, NAEYC has long required field and clinical experience placements with at least two age groups, the possible groupings being infants and toddlers (ages 0 - 2), preK and kindergarten (ages 3 - 5), and primary (ages 6 - 8).
The program review system has now evolved, however, from evaluation of contextual and program inputs to evaluation of candidate performance. NAEYC still expects programs to provide clinical and field experiences in settings with multiple age groups, but at present, your program will not be determined Not Nationally Recognized solely on this basis. However, program reviewers will comment on this requirement as an area for improvement or as a concern for possible follow-up by Board of Examiners.
To be eligible for National Recognition through the Spring of 2007, programs must have one semester’s worth of data for at least five assessments. (After this, programs will need one year’s worth of data through Spring of 2008, two year’s worth of data through Spring 2009, and three years thereafter.) With less data, you may still be eligible for National Recognition with Conditions, depending on the quality of your assessments, rubrics, and so forth.
If the institution has combined programs for the preparation of early childhood education and early childhood special education teachers into one unified or “blended” program, a combined program report addressing both sets of standards may be submitted to NCATE using a special template designed for blended programs (available at www.ncate.org.) This report allows programs to use 8 – 12 assessments to show evidence of meeting both sets of standards. Program reports for blended programs will be reviewed by a team representing the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
If your program addresses both sets of standards but does not wish to submit a blended program report, you may complete and submit a CEC report and an NAEYC report separately.
For more information on whether your program is blended, go to Is Yours a Blended Program? Or Are You Developing One?
There is no difference, except the term “guidelines” is now outdated. What used to be called guidelines are now called standards. NCATE and NAEYC revised their standards (previously called guidelines) to sharpen programs’ focus on performance-based assessment of candidates. Current standards reflect this performance-based emphasis.
There is no difference, except that the term “folio” is now outdated. What used to be called a folio is now called a program report. The form programs use to guide the creation of their program report is called the program report template.
No, the reports are quite different. NCATE, in collaboration with NAEYC and other specialty professional associations (SPAs), revised the format of program reports and implemented a new system in 2004. The report is now shorter and simpler than previous reports; it is based on evidence from 6 – 8 key assessments and may be not longer than 35 pages in length (this does not include attachments). The new system is Web based, and submissions and reviews occur electronically. New templates for both Initial-licensure and Advanced program reports are available through the NAEYC and NCATE Web sites.
In spite of the format changes, the premise of evaluation remains the same: Reviewers continue to evaluate early childhood programs on their capacity to demonstrate candidate proficiency across the five NAEYC standards.
All five NAEYC standards for professional preparation must be met for a program to become nationally recognized. Each standard has several (3 – 5) components or key elements that should generally be addressed for the standard to be met (see question 22).
Each of the five standards is comprised of between three and five key elements. NAEYC requires that the key elements are generally met, but it does not dictate that a certain number of elements must be met in order to determine that the standard is met. Reviewers look at the standard as a whole and make a professional judgment as to whether the program meets the overall intent of the standard. Programs should provide as much evidence as possible through the assessments and rubrics to show that all of the elements of a given standard are addressed.
A majority of essential tools must to be Met for an Advanced program to be Nationally Recognized. This means five of the nine essential tools must be met (and all five standards must be met) for the program to be recognized.
“Student learning” is a term used across all education programs to refer to the learning of the children (or adolescents) candidates will teach. In early childhood, “effects on student learning” refers to candidates’ ability to impact young children’s learning and to create environments that support children’s learning.
Subject-area knowledge, which is knowledge of the content of various academic areas like literacy, math, the arts, and physical development, is essential for early childhood professional preparation. Content knowledge in early childhood includes not only subject-area knowledge, but also knowledge of child development and family processes. As noted in the program report template, the definition of content knowledge for early childhood candidates is “knowledge of child development and learning (characteristics and influences); family relationships and processes; subject matter knowledge in literacy, mathematics, science, social studies, the visual and performing arts, and movement/physical education; as well as knowledge about children’s learning and development in these areas.”
Note that it is easy to mistakenly think that content knowledge means knowledge about the five NAEYC standards. Content knowledge, as defined for NCATE purposes, does not correlate exactly to the standards. For example, it does not cover assessment (Standard 3) or professionalism (Standard 5). It focuses primarily on Teaching and Learning (Standard 4), and secondarily on Child Development and Learning (Standard 1) and Family Relationships (Standard 2).
The program report asks for two assessments of content knowledge from programs. The first must be the state-determined licensure exam (often a Praxis II test), if there is one. The second will be selected at the discretion of the program—your choice.
Yes, NAEYC will accept the use of grades or GPA as an assessment of content knowledge. Programs are advised to be very selective about which courses/grades are included, ensuring that each is specifically content based. If a program uses a GPA, it should not use an overall GPA, which would likely have many courses not focused on content per se; rather, it should include grades from a few carefully chosen courses. The report should state clearly what components comprise the grades selected. Also, be sure to demonstrate alignment of the GPA with the NAEYC definition of content knowledge. Is it clear from the data how much candidates know about literacy, mathematics, social studies, and so forth? It is best not to include information about non-standards-based criteria for grades, such as attendance, presentation of materials, neatness, and so forth. As with other assessments, it is best to disaggregate the data. For example, a data table might present evidence of candidates’ knowledge of content in such areas as child development, literacy, mathematics, and physical development. In general, you will want to make a strong case in your Section IV narrative that the combination of selected course grades does indeed represent mastery of content knowledge.
NCATE has issued new instructions about the use of generic or unit-wide assessments, found at http://www.ncate.org/institutions/guidelinesProcedures.asp?ch=90:
“Generic student teaching/internship evaluations (those used by all programs in a unit) will not necessarily provide direct evidence of meeting specific SPA standards. Faculty have several options to ensure that these kinds of unit-wide assessments are appropriate for SPA review.
For example, program faculty could develop an addition to a generic student teaching/internship evaluation that does evaluate the candidate on appropriate SPA standards. Faculty could also code elements in the unit-wide assessment with the specific SPA standards that are addressed by the item and, in the discussion in Section IV for this assessment, provide a rationale for how these items are evaluated in practice to ensure that SPA standards are addressed. A third option is to use a SPA specific assessment completed during a pre-student teaching practicum.”
If the program has not adapted the generic assessment to show sufficient alignment with NAEYC’s standards—either through an addendum, coding, or some other means—it is difficult or impossible for reviewers to know whether candidates have mastery in relation to early childhood knowledge and skills. The assessment, therefore, probably will not be useful in evaluating performance on the standards. NAEYC encourages programs to tailor the unit-wide assessment to the NAEYC standards.
Yes, but not by NCATE. In Spring 2006, NAEYC implemented an Associate Degree Program Accreditation system. This accreditation process is not linked to NCATE; Associate degree programs are reviewed and accredited directly and solely by NAEYC. The NAEYC Associate Degree Program Accreditation also operates separately from regional accreditors, but to be eligible for NAEYC accreditation, the Associate degree program must be part of a college that holds regional accreditation. For more information, go to http://www.naeyc.org/ecada
NAEYC aims to support programs as they go through the accreditation process in a number of ways:
NAEYC’s Web site provides a number of resources for program faculty, such as standards for both initial licensure and advanced programs; links to report templates; example assessments; and links to NCATE resources. Go to http://www.naeyc.org/ncate/resources/faculty.
Preparing Early Childhood Professionals: NAEYC’s Standards for Programs contains the NAEYC as well as other standards (e.g., CEC, NBPTS), expectations for evidence, and other resources. It is available for $12 at www.naeyc.org/store.
NAEYC presents full-day workshops for faculty at the NAEYC Annual Conference and at the National Institute for Early Childhood Professional Development in June (see www.naeyc.org/conferences for details).
NAEYC staff is available to provide support and answer questions by email email@example.com or by telephone 800-424-2460, extension 8757.
For questions about NCATE timelines and requirements, please contact Robin Marion at NCATE: firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-466-7496. (Feel free to CC us at email@example.com) For technical assistance with the NCATE online PRS system, please contact Frank Huang at NCATE: firstname.lastname@example.org