PROVO — Teacher-education programs at Brigham Young University are on probation with a national accreditation association after a review conducted last October.
The National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) found BYU's David O. McKay School of Education deficient in two areas — establishing a system to evaluate the teaching skills of its graduates and preparing them to teach students of diverse backgrounds and cultures.
NCATE president Art Wise said BYU would retain its accreditation during the two-year probationary period and expressed faith in the university's ability to comply in time for its next review.
"We have made some pretty fundamental changes in our system, and I'm confident BYU can take the steps necessary to meet the standard," Wise said.
NCATE announced a dramatic adjustment in its standards in 2001. Instead of evaluating curriculum, the organization began in 2002 to look at a school's performance by evaluating "what the students took away from the curriculum and experience the institution gives them," Wise said.
The change has resulted in major growing pains at a large number of schools, including BYU.
NCATE completed reviews of a number of other universities and colleges last week and gave probationary status to 20 percent of them, Wise said. The evaluation standard was the cause of most of the problems.
Robert Patterson, BYU's dean of teacher education, said NCATE rejected the school's proposed evaluation program.
"They were looking for something different than what we provided," Patterson said. "They felt we had not met their expectation, which was to follow their outline."
Patterson said the school is moving to address NCATE's objections.
"We have put in place some things here that will ensure we won't have a repeat in two years," Patterson said. "My firm belief is that probation will be lifted in two years."
BYU's teacher-education programs graduate 950 to 1,150 students each year, making it one of the largest teacher-education schools in the nation, Patterson said.
However, those students are spread across several colleges at the university. The school of education provides instruction for majors in early childhood education, elementary education and special education.
Most of the secondary education degrees are found in other places. Language majors are housed under the College of Humanities, and theater, film, art and music majors are under the umbrella of the College of Fine Arts, for example.
Wise said decentralization is not a problem for NCATE as long as the school of education's evaluation system can appropriately account for each part of the teacher-education programs.
Patterson said NCATE has noted in past reviews that BYU had a weakness in the diversity of its students and faculty. However, he felt the school had made progress in those areas and that the review board that visited the campus had agreed. He expressed surprise that the final report made an issue of diversity.
"While we may not have students of diversity to the degree you may find in an inner-city or urban school, we have ensured with the changing demographics in Utah Valley and the Salt Lake Valley that every one of our students has experience teaching students of diversity in student-teaching opportunities."
"We don't think this is insurmountable by any stretch," Wise said. "But there is a primary emphasis on the preparation of students to work with diverse populations."
Patterson said the school already has taken steps to satisfy NCATE.
"When they come back for review in two years," he said, "we'll have no difficulty demonstrating that not only do we have an appropriate evaluation plan and provide for diverse teaching opportunities for our students, we will show excellence in those areas."