College of Education to continue full accreditation

10:44:43 AM CDT - Thursday, April 21, 2005

By Shannon Littlejohn

The College of Education recently received formal word from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education that its full accreditation status will continue. Citing last October's site visit to campus, NCATE noted in its March 21 letter that WSU's programs for the preparation of teachers and other school personnel meet the rigorous standards set by professional educators.

The highly anticipated letter even came with extra kudos from the agency that has reviewed and accredited WSU's teacher preparation program since 1954. Not only did NCATE praise WSU for meeting increasingly rigorous standards for continued accreditation, it noted that special congratulations were in order because there were no areas for improvement or weaknesses found during the fall visit.

"This is a fairly rare occurrence," said education dean Jon Engelhardt of the lack of new citations. "In fact, our visiting team chair, Don Platz, indicated in our exit interview that in his 10-plus years with NCATE he has not had an institution do so well on a review."

Because Kansas is a "partner state" in which state accreditation processes mirror those of NCATE, the college will be fully accredited by the Kansas State Board of Education as well.

In the past few years, NCATE and the state have changed the accreditation system from a curriculum-based one to a data-driven performance-based structure that focuses on what future teachers know and how they perform in the classroom. University units that prepare teachers are also judged on such other criteria as faculty qualifications and their ability to teach students, student knowledge and skills, and proper student assessments.

For WSU's education college, having too few minority students and faculty and not enough data on students and their skills had resulted in the program being placed on probation.

In determining how to improve, the college decided in 2002 to resubmit all of its programs to the Kansas State Department of Education for review under new state standards. A program redesign plan was agreed upon, creating cross-college teams of faculty and area education practitioners.

"With the significant changes in accreditation standards, there was enormous effort devoted to making the needed program and institutional changes," said Engelhardt.

"It was real team effort by many people," he said. "Faculty and administration in the colleges of education, liberal arts and sciences, and fine arts, as well as our (K-12) school partners, all made significant contributions to meeting the new standards and having such a successful visit."

Some of the changes/developments included refining and further developing its unit assessment system, designing a more collaborative unit governance structure, appointing an ongoing diversity committee with a focus on increasing faculty diversity and stepping up efforts to recruit and retain a more diverse student body. A new minority student mentoring initiative was established.

During the accreditation review preparation process, policies were re-examined and realigned, student assessment data were gathered and prepared into reports, and roles for student support services and technology personnel were redefined.

It's been a hectic few years with reams of paperwork produced, said Engelhardt. NCATE's next site visit is scheduled for fall 2009, so faculty, staff and students can rest just a little bit on the laurels of full accreditation. But as he points out, modern accreditation is never really over; it is a continuing enterprise -- data to be collected, summarized and analyzed and efforts to recruit and support high quality students and faculty, Engelhardt said.

"The most positive aspect of full accreditation is that it immediately allows us to look forward, and not back, to address the many emerging challenges in preparing high quality educators" he said.

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