Education Accreditation

Accreditation Glossary of Terms

NCATE Leadership (Governing Boards) in Accreditation

The Executive Board provides overall guidance and direction for the organization; it oversees NCATE's standards, policies and budget. The Executive Board is composed of 30 representatives, including the chairs of the other three boards, a public representative and a National Board for Professional Teaching Standards representative. Each group of associations (teacher educators, teachers, policy makers and school specialists) share the remaining seats.

The Unit Accreditation Board determines the accreditation status of schools, colleges, and departments of education at colleges and universities. It is responsible for developing standards and procedures for accreditation, and oversees on-site visits to institutions, the training of the Board of Examiners (BOE) and other accreditation procedures. The board is composed of 32 members; one-third of the members are teacher educators, one-third are teachers, one-sixth are state and local policy makers and one-sixth are school specialists. In addition, one member is from a student organization and one member is a public representative.

The State Partnership Board creates collaborative agreements with states to strengthen teacher preparation, reduce duplication of effort between state program approval and professional accreditation, and save time and resources for both the state and institutions. It is responsible for reviewing and approving applications from states wishing to enter into or renew a partnership agreement. This board is composed of 14 members. Two each represent teacher education, teachers and professional specialty groups, seven represent state and local policymakers and one represents the public.

The Specialty Areas Studies Board (SPA) approves program standards of national professional associations that institutions are required to address as part of the accreditation process. It is responsible for developing the guidelines for approving program standards and making recommendations regarding the program review process. This board is composed of one representative each from the teacher, teacher education and policy maker groups and all representatives from the specialty professional associations not assigned to other boards, plus one public member.

The Appeals Board provides individuals from which a five person review panel is selected to hear the appeal of a decision made by another NCATE governing board. The Appeals Board consists of 28 members appointed by NCATE's member associations.


Accreditation - (1) 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. (2) The decision rendered by NCATE when an institution's professional education unit meets NCATE's standards and requirements.

Alternate Route to State Licensure Programs - Post baccalaureate programs designed for individuals who did not prepare as educators during their undergraduate studies. These programs, which usually lead to a unit's recommendation for a state license, accommodate the schedules of adults and recognize their earlier academic preparation and life experiences. In some instances, candidates may be employed as educators while enrolled. Examples include MAT programs, programs that operate in professional development schools and Troops to Teachers programs. They are sometimes called nontraditional programs.

Annual Report - The AACTE/NCATE Joint 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 provides information for use in monitoring candidate performance and managing and improving unit operations and programs for the preparation of professional educators.

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 onsite accreditation review of a unit. The report describes how the unit meets the NCATE standards and cites any areas for improvement in relation to the standards.

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 non-governmental agency or association grants professional recognition to an individual who has met certain predetermined qualifications specified by that agency or association (the National Board for Professional Teacher Standards grants advanced certification).

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).

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.

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.

Diversity - Differences among groups of people and individuals based on ethnicity, race, socioeconomic status, gender, exceptionalities, language, religion, sexual orientation and geographical area.

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.

Field Experiences - A variety of early and ongoing off campus 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.

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.

Higher Education Faculty - Full- or part-time employees of an institution of higher education.

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 (see the Handbook for Accreditation Visits for more details).

Institutional Standards - Candidate knowledge, skills and dispositions identified by the institution to reflect its mission and the unit's conceptual framework.

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

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

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).

Multicultural Perspective - An understanding of the social, political, economic, academic and historical constructs of ethnicity, race, socioeconomic status, gender, exceptionalities, language, religion, sexual orientation and the geographical area.

Nationally Recognized Program - A program that has met the standards of a specialized professional association that is a constituent member of NCATE. An institution's state-approved program also will be considered a nationally recognized program if the state program standards have been approved by the appropriate national association (nationally recognized programs are listed on NCATE's Web site or in the biennial guide of institutions with initial teacher preparation programs).

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.

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

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 full-time employees 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, regardless 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 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.

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, observations by faculty, videos, comments by cooperating teachers or internship supervisors, and samples of student work.

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 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 Standards - Candidate knowledge, skills and dispositions set by the specialized professional associations (SPA program standards) and adopted by NCATE for use in its accreditation review. Professional standards also refer to standards set by other recognized national organizations/accrediting agencies that evaluate professional education programs (e.g., the National Association of Schools of Music).

Proficiencies - Required knowledge, skills and dispositions identified in the professional, state or institutional standards.

Program - A planned sequence of courses and experiences for preparing P-12 teachers and other professional school personnel. These courses and experiences sometimes lead to a recommendation for a state license to work in schools.

Rubrics - Written and shared criteria 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.

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 off campus 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 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.)

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.

Student Teaching - Pre-service clinical practice for candidates preparing to teach.

Students - Children and youth attending P-12 schools as distinguished from teacher candidates.

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 research; (5) electronic information access and exchange; and (6) personal and professional productivity.

Technology Education - The study of technology, which provides an opportunity for students to learn about the processes and knowledge related to technology that are needed to solve problems and extend human capabilities.

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.