College of Education gets national accreditation

Applying for jobs after college can be daunting enough, but not getting the job because your school didn’t meet the employers’ standards can be devastating. Fortunately, students in UAA’s College of Education won’t need to concern themselves over that any longer.

The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, or NCATE, accredited the College of Education Oct. 23. The decision gives the program further recognition beyond its previous approval from the Department of Education by asserting that it meets nationally recognized standards for teacher education.

“Accreditation is a big deal in teacher education. The best thing about NCATE is that for two to three years, as you’re preparing for NCATE, you have a lot of in-depth conversations as faculty, administrators and staff about how to become more student friendly – The best thing is not the accreditation itself; it’s all the work and discussion that leads up to accreditation,” said Mary Snyder, dean for the College of Education.

Some cities and states require teachers to be educated by NCATE accredited institutions, so it is beneficial for the students of the college for it to have the status.

Snyder said she thinks NCATE accreditation might indirectly boost enrollment, although a lot of students are probably unaware of which program their school has been accredited by.

“I think we learned from the NCATE process a lot of things that we were doing that were not working needed to be changed,” she said. “Sometimes your knowledge base shifts, so things that were right even five years ago are not necessarily the right things to be doing now because the conditions have changed.”

Snyder is new to the position of dean, so the college was granted a six-month extension before being reviewed for accreditation.

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Michael Johnson, chair of educational leadership, which instructs future school administrators, said because the college now meets national standards, students will have more opportunities available to them when they graduate.

“We kind of live in a standards-based world,” he said. “If you want to be a principal in 42 other states, it’s really easy to get certified because you went through a program that meets the national standards (at UAA).”

Johnson said the college is working to improve its distance education program, in an effort to increase the student base, and in order to give rural Alaskans an opportunity to get an education online.

“We need to take care of Alaska, because we’re a state institution,” he said. “We need to be able to provide a high-quality education because we are certified to meet the standards, and to be able to provide that first to Alaskans and then to different people in other parts of the world.”

Johnson said the national accreditation elevates UAA’s status because one in four educational leadership schools around the country have the accreditation.

Accredited institutions produce two-thirds of new teacher graduates across the country, according to NCATE.

The are approximately 800 students enrolled at the college, and UAA produces about 30 percent of Alaska’s teachers and administrators.

Senior Heather Johnson, elementary education major, said she plans to substitute teach for a while before she settles down after graduation.

“NCATE accreditation is definitely a good point to bring up during an interview,” she said. “It looks good when the school you went to goes up in status.”

Greg Smith, a grad student studying counseling education, said he thinks NCATE accreditation could help an employer decide between two applicants.

“I don’t know if I would specifically put it on a resume, but if it came up during an interview, it’s something that I would certainly address,” he said.

The College of Education at UAA is four-years-old, and was the last University of Alaska campus to become NCATE accredited. NCATE accreditation is valid for five years after the initial evaluation.