Rationale for Standards
Standards for teacher preparation programs serve to guide our practice. They represent agreed-upon, valued stances with regard to teaching and teacher education. Standards help us reflect on our practice, what we value, what we teach and how we teach. They help us to systematically consider issues central to the improvement of education. The process of developing and interpreting standards plays a key role in teacher education and practice by serving to redirect, reform, and re-invigorate the field itself. Standards not only function to improve education programs available to prospective teachers but they also server to promote the advancement of the profession through asserting the importance of delivering quality education.
Definition of Inclusion
Even though inclusion has varies meanings for different individuals, practitioners, schools, and institutions, there is a core understanding of inclusion that can and should guide teacher preparation. For these standards we have defined inclusion as incorporating the following beliefs. Students with diverse backgrounds, capabilities and support requirements participate in general education settings as full members of the learning community. Necessary services and instructional assistance for the students and teacher are provided within the classroom. The general classroom teacher, in collaboration with support professionals, assumes responsibility and accountability for designing meaningful learning experience that maximize learner strengths and assure the success of all children in achieving curricular learning goals that meet high standards. (Dorrow, 1999)
Development of the Standards
These standards are a natural outgrowth of the work of the Higher Education Task Force which was started in 1996 as one component if the New York State Partnership for Statewide Systems Change 2000. The Higher Education Task Force focuses on the preparation needed for quality inclusive teaching and the challenges of moving institutions toward inclusive teacher preparation.
Over 70 institutions (originally 20 at the time of the creation of these standards) representing a range of schools, from small colleges to large universities, are members of the Task Force. Each member institution has agreed to support improvements of teacher preparation for quality inclusive schools.
Purpose of the Standards for Inclusive Teacher Preparation Programs
The following standards do not prescribe practice. Although the standards may be clear and precise, they allow for alternative ways of approaching practice. The design and delivery of inclusive teacher education programs is the purview of practitioners and institutions.