Neag School’s Educator Preparation Receives National Recognition

Charles B. Gentry building at the UConn Storrs campus. Home of the Neag School of Education.
Charles B. Gentry building at the UConn Storrs campus. Home of the Neag School of Education.

The Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut has been reaccredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and received national recognition for its commitment to producing quality teachers for the nation’s children by continuously improving its well-designed and executed diverse clinical and field experiences for its students in educator preparation programs.

According to Thomas C. DeFranco, Dean of the Neag School of Education, “I am extremely pleased with results of our NCATE report. In all cases we have met or exceeded the rigorous standards set by NCATE. This report is a testament to the scholarship and hard work of faculty and staff over the past few years in preparing the next generation of highly effective K-12 teachers.”

The NCATE has chosen to highlight UConn’s clinically based preparation programs at its national meetings and in a special session at the 2011 convention of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE).

The NCATE’s site examiners reported that the Neag School has demonstrated through evidence that its students have acquired “knowledge and skills, and in particular dispositions to help all students learn.”

Further, students and alumni “uniformly spoke about student learning affirmatively and with confidence of having made an impact on student learning.”

The clinical-based preparation programs allow the students to “have experience in both suburban and urban settings and address the needs of students with diverse linguistic and learning needs and those who come from diverse racial/ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.”

“Teacher quality is the most important factor in P–12 student achievement,” said Neag Assistant Dean Yuhang Rong. “Research indicates that a key element for successful learning is the opportunity to apply what is being learned and refine it. Carefully constructed clinical and field experiences can enable students in educator preparation programs to reinforce, apply, and synthesize concepts that they are learning in coursework. A clinical-based educator preparation program enables us to know that our children’s teachers enter the classroom ready to help them learn.’

NCATE, the organization responsible for professional accreditation of teacher education, currently accredits 623 institutions, which produce two-thirds of the nation’s new teacher graduates each year.

“NCATE-accredited schools must meet rigorous standards set by the profession and members of the public,” said Dr. James Cibulka, President of the NCATE.

According to Dr. Cibulka, “The NCATE revises its standards every five years to incorporate best practice and research in order to ensure that the standards reflect a consensus about what is important in teacher preparation today. In the past decade, NCATE has moved from an accreditation system that focused on curriculum and what teacher candidates were offered, to a data driven performance-based system dedicated to determining what candidates know and are able to do.”

Dr. DeFranco, agrees. “NCATE has taken a leadership role regarding accountability in teacher preparation by shifting the conversation from inputs to outputs, from coursework to competencies. They are requiring teacher preparation programs to provide evidence that their candidates have the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to be highly effective teachers and demonstrate their effect on pupil performance.”

“As a result of the new and rigorous NCATE standards, teacher preparation programs have redesigned their assessment systems and have become evidence-based in response to this trend, using continuous feedback to make necessary changes to enhance programs and improve accountability,” said Dr. DeFranco.

In the 2009 to 2010 school year, 165 out of 166 school districts in Connecticut employed a total of 3,090 Neag School graduates. A Neag School internal study indicates a majority of its teacher preparation graduates (73 percent) stay in the classroom for 10 years or more and in far greater numbers than their colleagues nationwide (50 percent).

Desi Nesmith, Principal of the Sand School in Hartford, completed his elementary teacher preparation and administrator preparation programs at the Neag School. The Sand School was recognized as Hartford’s most improved elementary school in the past year. Nesmith was recognized by the Connecticut Association of School in 2010 as the First Year Principal of the Year.

“Teacher candidates must have in-depth knowledge of the subject matter that they plan to teach as well as the skills necessary to convey it so that students learn,” Nesmith said.

“As a graduate from two programs at the Neag School of Education, I know it has a dedicated faculty, who carefully assess knowledge and skill of its candidates. The Neag School partners with Connecticut P-12 schools to design and implement the clinically based preparation, which has enabled me to develop the skills necessary to help students learn.”

“I can tell you from my own experience, that the graduates of the Neag School are prepared to understand and work with diverse student populations,” continued Nesmith.