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Glossary of NCATE Terms


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Accreditation. A process for assessing and enhancing academic and educational quality through voluntary peer review. NCATE accreditation informs the public that an institution has a professional education unit that has met state, professional, and institutional standards of educational quality.

Accreditation Action Report. The report issued by the Unit Accreditation Board which indicates the unit’s accreditation status and summarizes the weaknesses to which the unit must respond in its annual reports.

Advanced Preparation. Programs at post baccalaureate levels for (1) the continuing education of teachers who have previously completed initial preparation or (2) the preparation of other professional school personnel. Advanced preparation programs commonly award graduate credit and include master’s, specialist, and doctoral degree programs as well as non-degree licensure programs offered at the graduate level.

Annual Report . The NCATE Data Collection Report that is required of all NCATE-affiliated institutions as a condition of accreditation. A compilation of these reports serves as primary documentation for Board of Examiner teams as they prepare for on-site accreditation visits.

Assessment System . A comprehensive and integrated set of evaluation measures that provide information for use in monitoring candidate performance and managing and improving unit operations and programs for the preparation of professional educators.

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Benchmark . A description or example of candidate or institutional performance that serves as a standard of comparison for evaluation or judging quality.

Board of Examiners (BOE) Report . The report prepared by the Board of Examiners team that conducts the on-site accreditation review of a unit. The report describes how the unit meets the NCATE standards and cites any weaknesses in relation to the standards.

BOE Report Rejoinder . The written response a unit is required to submit following receipt of the BOE report. The rejoinder may take the form of a letter acknowledging the receipt of the report or a document that substantively responds to the report or the conduct of the team visit.

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Candidate Performance Data . Information derived from assessments of candidate proficiencies, in areas of teaching and effects on student learning, candidate knowledge, and dispositions. Candidate performance data may be derived from a wide variety of sources, such as projects, essays or tests demonstrating subject content mastery; employer evaluations; state licensure tests; and mentoring year “portfolios” as well as assessments, projects, reflections, clinical observations, and other evidence of pedagogical and professional teaching proficiencies.

Candidates . Individuals admitted to, or enrolled in, programs for the initial or advanced preparation of teachers, teachers continuing their professional development, or other professional school personnel. Candidates are distinguished from “students” in P-12 schools.

Certification . The process by which a nongovernmental agency or association grants professional recognition to an individual who has met certain predetermined qualifications specified by that agency or association.

Clinical Faculty. School and higher education faculty responsible for instruction, supervision, and assessment of candidates during field experience and clinical practice.

Clinical Practice. Student teaching or internships that provide candidates with an intensive and extensive culminating activity. Candidates are immersed in the learning community and are provided opportunities to develop and demonstrate competence in the professional roles for which they are preparing.

Conceptual Framework . An underlying structure in a professional education unit that gives conceptual meanings through an articulated rationale to the unit’s operation, and provides direction for programs, courses, teaching, candidate performance, faculty scholarship and service, and unit accountability.

Content . The subject matter or discipline that teachers are being prepared to teach at the elementary, middle level, and/or secondary levels. Content also refers to the professional field of study (e.g., special education, early childhood, school psychology, reading, or school administration).

Continuing Accreditation . The accreditation decision rendered by NCATE following a successful accreditation visit five years after an institution’s professional education unit has been accredited. Accreditation is continued for as long as the unit continues to satisfy NCATE’s standards and requirements.

Continuing Accreditation with Conditions. An NCATE accreditation decision rendered by the Unit Accreditation Board following a five-year continuing visit that indicates that the unit is granted continuing accreditation, but has significant weaknesses related to one or more standards. A focused accreditation visit must take place to remove the conditions within two years after the decision was rendered.

Continuing Accreditation with Probation . An NCATE accreditation decision rendered by the Unit Accreditation Board following a five-year continuing visit that indicates that the unit is granted continuing accreditation, but has significant weaknesses overall that place the unit’s accreditation in jeopardy if they are left uncorrected. An accreditation visit that follows the protocol for an initial visit must be scheduled by the unit and take place within two years of the semester in which a probationary decision was rendered.

Cultural Background. The context of one's life experience as shaped by membership in groups based on ethnicity, race, socioeconomic status, gender, exceptionalities, language, religion, sexual orientation, and geographical area.

Curriculum . Courses, experiences, and assessments necessary to prepare candidates to teach or work with students at a specific age level and/or to teach a specific subject area.

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Dispositions . The values, commitments, and professional ethics that influence behaviors toward students, families, colleagues, and communities and affect student learning, motivation, and development as well as the educator’s own professional growth. Dispositions are guided by beliefs and attitudes related to values such as caring, fairness, honesty, responsibility, and social justice. For example, they might include a belief that all students can learn, a vision of high and challenging standards, or a commitment to a safe and supportive learning environment.

Distance Learning . A formal educational process in which the major portion of the instruction occurs when the learner and the instructor are not in the same place at the same time.

Diversity . Differences among groups of people and individuals based on race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, language, exceptionalities, religion, sexual orientation, and geographic region in which they live.

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Elements of Standards . The major components of each standard that are described in the rubrics and explanations that accompany the standards. Board of Examiners teams will look for evidence that the unit and its programs address the elements.

Exceptionalities . A physical, mental, or emotional condition, including gifted/talented abilities, that requires individualized instruction and/or other educational support or services.

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Field Experiences. A variety of early and on going field-based opportunities in which candidates may observe, assist, tutor, instruct, and/or conduct research. Field experiences may occur in off-campus settings such as schools, community centers, or homeless shelters.

Full-time Faculty. Employees of a higher education institution with full-time assignments with the professional education unit as instructors, professors at different ranks, administrators, and professional support personnel.

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General Education Knowledge . Theoretical and practical understanding generally expected of a liberally educated person. General education includes developing knowledge related to the arts, communications, history, literature, mathematics, philosophy, sciences, and the social studies from multicultural and global perspectives.

Global Perspective . An understanding of the interdependency of nations and peoples and the political, economic, ecological, and social concepts and values that affect lives within and across national boundaries. It allows for the exploration of multiple perspectives on events and issues.

Governance . The system and structure for defining policy, providing leadership, and managing and coordinating the procedures and resources that ensure the quality of all school personnel prepared at the institution.

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Information Technology . Computer hardware and software; voice, data, network, satellite and other telecommunications technologies; and multimedia and application development tools. These technologies are used for the input, storage, processing, and communication of information.

Initial Teacher Preparation . Programs at baccalaureate or post baccalaureate levels that prepare candidates for the first license to teach.

Institutional Report . A report that provides the institutional and unit contexts, a description of the unit’s conceptual framework, and evidence that the unit is meeting the NCATE unit standards. The report serves as primary documentation for Board of Examiners teams conducting on-site visits.

Institutional Standards . The unit’s declaration of the knowledge, skills, and dispositions expected of candidates preparing to teach or do other work in schools. The institutional standards should identify candidate proficiencies and be reflected in the unit’s conceptual framework.

Interim Report . A report prepared by a unit that describes changes and improvements in, and evaluations of, the unit’s programs since the previous program review. The interim report submitted one year before the unit’s continuing accreditation visit, is reviewed by the SPA to continue program approval.

Internship. Generally, the post, licensure and/or graduate clinical practice under the supervision of clinical faculty; sometimes refers to the preservice clinical experience.

INTASC . The Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium, a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) that has developed model performance-based standards and assessments for the licensure of teachers.

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Knowledge Bases . Empirical research, disciplined inquiry, informed theory, and the wisdom of practice.

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Licensure . The official recognition by a state governmental agency that an individual has met certain qualifications specified by the state and is, therefore, approved to practice in an occupation as a professional. (Some state agencies call their licenses certificates or credentials.)

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Nationally Recognized Program . A program that has met the standards of a specialized professional association that is a constituent member of NCATE.

NBPTS . The National Board for Professional Teacher Standards, an organization of teachers and other educators that has developed both standards and a system for assessing the performance of experienced teachers seeking national certification.

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Other Professional School Personnel . Educators who provide professional services other than teaching in schools. They include, but are not limited to, principals, reading specialists and supervisors, school library media specialists, school psychologists, school superintendents, and instructional technology specialists.

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Part-time Faculty . Employees of a higher education institution who have less than a full-time assignment in the professional education unit. Some part-time faculty are fulltimeemployees of the college or university with a portion of their assignments in the professional education unit. Other part-time faculty are not full-time employees of the institution and are commonly considered adjunct faculty.

Pedagogical Content Knowledge . The interaction of the subject matter and effective teaching strategies to help students learn the subject matter. It requires a thorough understanding of the content to teach it in multiple ways, drawing on the cultural backgrounds and prior knowledge and experiences of students.

Pedagogical Knowledge. The general concepts, theories, and research about effective teaching and introspective of content areas.

Performance Assessment . A comprehensive assessment through which candidates demonstrate their proficiencies in subject, professional, and pedagogical knowledge, skills, and dispositions, including their abilities to have positive effects on student learning.

Performance-based Licensing. Licensing based on a system of multiple assessments that measure a teacher candidate's knowledge, skills, and dispositions to determine whether he/she can perform effectively as a teacher or in another school specialty.

Performance-based Program . A professional preparation program that systematically gathers, analyzes, and uses data for self-improvement and candidate advisement, especially data that demonstrate candidate proficiencies, including positive effects on student learning.

Performance-based Accreditation System . A practice in accreditation that makes use of assessment information describing candidate proficiencies or actions of professional education units as evidence for determining whether professional standards are “met” or “not met.” It contrasts with accreditation decisions based solely on course offerings, program experiences, and “inputs” as the evidence for judging attainment of professional standards.

Performance Criteria . Descriptions or rubrics that specify qualities or levels of candidate proficiency that are used to evaluate candidate performance.

Performance Data . Information that describes the qualities and levels of proficiency of candidates, especially in application of their knowledge to classroom teaching and other professional situations. Sometimes the phrase is used to indicate the qualities and levels of institutional practice, for example, in making collaborative arrangements with clinical schools, setting faculty professional development policies, or providing leadership through technical assistance to community schools.

Policymakers . Representatives of public and governmental agencies with public education responsibility at the national, state, and local levels.

Portfolio . An accumulation of evidence about individual proficiencies, especially in relation to explicit standards and rubrics, used in evaluation of competency as a teacher or in another professional school role. Contents might include end-of-course evaluations and tasks used for instructional or clinical experience purposes such as projects, journals, and observations by faculty, videos, comments by cooperating teachers or internship supervisors, and samples of student work.

Preconditions for Accreditation. Nine fundamental requirements that undergird NCATE’s standards that must be met before a unit is permitted to advance to candidacy for initial accreditation.

Professional Community . Full- and part-time faculty (including clinical faculty) in the professional education unit, faculty in other units of the college/university, P-12 practitioners, candidates, and others involved in professional education.

Professional Development . Opportunities for professional education faculty to develop new knowledge and skills through inservice education, conference attendance, sabbatical leave, summer leave, intra- and inter-institutional visitations, fellowships, work in P-12 schools, etc.

Professional Development Schools. Specially structured schools in which the P-12 school and higher education faculty collaborate to (1) provide practicum, student teaching, and internship experiences; (2) support and enable the professional development of school and higher education faculty; (3) support and enable inquiry directed at the improvement of practice; and (4) support and enhance student achievement. PDSs require the institutional commitment of colleges and universities, school districts, and teachers’ organizations.

Professional Education Faculty . Those individuals employed by a college or university, including graduate teaching assistants, who teach one or more courses in education, provide services to candidates (e.g., advising), supervise clinical experiences, or administer some portion of the unit.

Professional Knowledge. The historical, economic, sociological, philosophical, and psychological understandings of schooling and education. It also includes knowledge about learning, diversity, technology, professional ethics, legal and policy issues, pedagogy, and the roles and responsibilities of the profession of teaching.

Program . A planned sequence of courses and experiences leading to a degree or recommendation for a state license.

Program Approval. Process by which a state governmental agency reviews a professional education program to determine if it meets the state's standards for the preparation of school personnel.

Program Report . The report prepared by faculty responsible for a program (e.g. math education, elementary education) responding to SPA standards.

Provisional Accreditation . An NCATE accreditation decision rendered by the Unit Accreditation Board following an initial visit that indicates that the unit is provisionally accredited, and has significant weaknesses related to one or more standards. A focused accreditation visit must take place to remove the provisional status within two years of the time the decision was rendered.

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Rubrics. Written and shared for judging performance that indicate the qualities by which levels of performance can be differentiated, and that anchor judgments about the degree of success on a candidate assessment.

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Scholarship . Systematic inquiry into the areas related to teaching, learning, and the education of teachers and other school personnel. Scholarship includes traditional research and publication as well as the rigorous and systematic study of pedagogy and the application of current research findings in new settings. Scholarship further presupposes submission of one’s work for professional review and evaluation.

School Faculty . Licensed practitioners in P-12 schools who provide instruction, supervision, and direction for candidates during field-based assignments.

School Partners . P-12 schools that collaborate with the higher education institution in designing, developing, and implementing field experiences, clinical practice, delivery of instruction, and research.

Service . Faculty contributions to college or university activities, schools, communities, and professional associations in ways that are consistent with the institution and unit’s mission.

SPAs . Specialized Professional Associations. The national organizations that represent teachers, professional education faculty, and other school personnel who teach a specific subject matter (e.g., mathematics or social studies), teach students at a specific developmental level (i.e., early childhood, elementary, middle level, or secondary), teach students with specific needs (e.g., bilingual education or special education), administer schools (e.g., principals or superintendents), or provide services to students (e.g., school counselors or school psychologists). Many of these associations are constituent members of NCATE and have standards for both students in schools and candidates preparing to work in schools.

SPA Program Review. The process by which the specialized professional associations assess the quality of teacher preparation programs offered by an institution. (Institutions are required to submit their programs for review by SPAs as part of the NCATE preconditions process, unless the state’s program standards have been approved by NCATE’s Specialty Areas Studies Board for the review of institutions’ teacher education programs.)

SPA Program Standards . Standards developed by national professional associations that describe what professionals in the field should know and be able to do.

SPA State Program Standards Review . The process by which the specialized professional associations evaluate the degree to which a state’s program standards are aligned with the SPA standards. (In states where state program standards are judged to be substantially aligned with SPA standards, the state standards will be approved by NCATE’s Specialty Area Studies Board, and NCATE will defer to the state’s review of institutions’ teacher education programs.)

SPA Report. The written findings (or a critique) by a specialized professional association of (1) an institution’s programs for the preparation of teachers or other education professionals, or (2) a state’s program standards.

SPA Report Rejoinder . (1) A unit’s written response to a specialized professional association’s review of the unit’s teacher preparation programs. (2) A state’s written response to a specialized professional association’s review of the state’s program review standards.

Standards . Written expectations for meeting a specified level of performance. Standards exist for the content that P-12 students should know at a certain age or grade level.

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Technology, Use of. What candidates must know and understand about information technology in order to use it in working effectively with students and professional colleagues in the (1) delivery, development, prescription, and assessment of instruction; (2) problem solving; (3) school and classroom administration; (4) educational esearch; (5) electronic information access and exchange; and (6) personal and professional productivity.

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UAB . Unit Accreditation Board.

Unit . The institution, college, school, department, or other administrative body with the responsibility for managing or coordinating all programs offered for the initial and continuing preparation of teachers and other school personnel, regardless of where these programs are administratively housed. Also known as the “professional education unit.”

Unit Head . The individual officially designated to provide leadership for the unit (e.g., dean, director, or chair), with the authority and responsibility for its overall administration and operation.

Unit Review . The process by which NCATE applies national standards for the preparation of school personnel to the unit.

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Weakness . A statement written in the Board of Examiners report indicating that a unit has not met expected levels of achievement in one or more elements of a standard. The Board of Examiners may cite a weakness or weaknesses and still recommend that the standard is met. Units must report on progress made toward correcting weaknesses in their annual reports to NCATE.

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