Gate Check on Politics

, Emily Taylor-Norris, Leave a comment

A national organization dedicated to academic freedom called on the U.S. Department of Education, Governors and institutions of higher education to disavow ideological litmus tests imposed on prospective teachers.

The demand comes in the wake of recent revelations that guidelines issued by federally-recognized NCATE, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, require schools of education to assess the “dispositions” of teacher trainees as a requirement for certification.

According to the NCATE standards, “dispositions” encompass “beliefs and attitudes related to values such as caring, fairness, honesty, responsibility, and social justice.”

The new accrediting guidelines are being adopted in hundreds of institutions across the country accredited by NCATE, the primary accreditor of teacher preparation programs, recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Eight states mandate NCATE accreditation for teacher-training programs, and NCATE has formal partnerships with 46 states for conducting joint reviews of schools of education, making NCATE’s standards the virtual benchmark for teacher preparation across the nation.

According to The New York Sun, students at Brooklyn College recently expressed fears that the new guidelines were being used against prospective teachers who did not share the political views of their professors. Several students complained that they were penalized in a course on high school literacy when they sought to challenge the education professor’s assertion that grammatical English was a language of oppressors.

“It is unconscionable for any college to impose guidelines which invite a political or ideological litmus test as a condition for a degree or entry into a profession,” said Anne D. Neal [pictured], president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. “To do so is patent discrimination against college students on matters of conscience, a violation of the First Amendment, and hostile to the very essence of a college education—the robust exchange of ideas.”

“This dangerous practice should be stopped,” said Neal.

ACTA sent letters protesting application of the “dispositions” guidelines to Education Secretary Margaret Spellings (whose Department formally recognizes national accreditors), Governors whose states require NCATE accreditation, and Christoph Kimmich, president of Brooklyn College.The letters call for the top officials to repudiate the guidelines which subordinate academic goals to social engineering.

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni is a national education nonprofit based in Washington, DC dedicated to academic freedom, academic quality and accountability. It is the sponsor of Trustees for Better Teachers, a multi-year initiative to improve teacher education in the United States.

Emily Taylor-Norris works at The American Council of Trustees & Alumni.


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