A day at the SPA with NCATE

My intention this morning was to do my laundry, not exactly my favorite chore but something that needs to be done. Yet again the weather redirected my morning plan. I replaced my shoes for my wellies and armed with a coordinating brolly headed to my local cafe el-beit, to prepare for a mock NCATE visit (National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education), happening today at Hunter College. NCATE is an NGO and is the US’s teaching profession’s organization who help establish high quality teacher, specialist, and administrator preparation. NCATE is recognised by the US Department of Education as an accrediting body for schools and colleges. Today they are assessing and interviewing our Special Education department at Hunter College. NCATE has approved Specialty Professional Associations (SPAs). For early childhood special education it is the Council for Exceptional Children. CEC support international membership and when I was working in Egypt we received the monographs and journals.

During my years of working in Africa and the Middle East, when training teachers and conducting workshops it was important to my colleagues and I to adhere to a set of professional and ethical standards to ensure that our teachers would be competent and skilled in the classroom. When I worked as the Clinical Director of Advance and the LRC Early Intervention Program we considered the CEC standards when planning intervention programs and training staff. My advice to my colleagues in Africa and the Middle East is to view the CEC website (http://www.cec.sped.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=About_CEC) and to use the CEC standards as a guide to planning intervention and educational systems. This does however come with a word of warning. My concern for the importance of respecting cultural and linguistic diversity always makes me very cautious when recommending assessment tools, interventions or professional standards which are ‘western’ or ‘anglo-centric’. Keeping this in mind the CEC standards are an important guide and starting point. This is also one of those times when I am repeating myself and just as I had said at the UNESCO 1st Regional Conference on Autism held in Beirut (May 2004), I am reiterating that we need to have and include accrediting bodies like NCATE and CEC across Africa and the Middle East. We need to ensure that our children and the families receive the quality services they deserve. I am aware that the Ministries of Social Affairs and Education in developing countries do assess and evaluate the educational programs, however these are not always directed by evidence based practices and do not always cover the depth or breadth of standards covered by professional associations such as CEC.

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