State board knew of School of Education accreditation issues in July

Photo by Cheyenne Mathews.

State education officials may have known that the School of Education would not receive accreditation as early as last summer. The Chair of the Alaska State Board of Education and Early Development was asked by Senators on the Senate Education Committee when he first knew of struggles at the committee meeting on Feb. 5. Chair James Fields said he was first notified that there may have been problems with renewing accreditation during the Council for Educator Preparation site visit in the summer.

“There was informal communication that yeah, it didn’t look good,” Fields said.

During the same committee meeting, Jim Johnsen, president of the UA system, said that lines of communication were broken and he was not aware of any serious problems.

“It did catch me by surprise,” Johnsen said. “I did understand that it wasn’t a slam dunk, but I was under the impression that we would likely succeed.”

Since the official accreditation was revoked by the CAEP in January, the university has chosen not to appeal CAEP’s decision and the Board of Regents may decide to not reapply for accreditation.

“I have not made a decision, the Board of Regents has not made a decision, at this point, whether to reapply for accreditation,” Johnsen said. “It would be a three-year process to go through, a lot of time, a lot of resources would be involved in that.”

Sen. Tom Begich, who runs a scholarship fund that provides money for several education students at UAA, said he was “disturbed” by the prospect that the university would not reapply for accreditation.

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“I think the message that it sends to our potential teachers in Alaska is that education sort of matters but we’re going to base our education school essentially in Southeast despite the fact that over half of the population of the state is based in the Southcentral area of Alaska,” Begich said.

At the meeting, Johnsen presented a timeline of events that led up to the accreditation revocation.

 

Aug. 2017 —  UAA submits self-study report to CAEP

Dec. 2017 —  CAEP provides a formative review to UAA

April 2018 —  CAEP 3-Day site visit to UAA

June 2018 —  site visit report available to UAA

Nov. 2018 —  UAA notified to expect a final decision in December

Jan. 2019 —  CAEP Accreditation revocation received

 

At a September 2017 Board of Regents meeting, Johnsen floated the goal of having University of Alaska education programs prepare 90 percent of the new teachers hired in Alaska. This plan included the creation of an Alaska College of Education centered at UAS. In preparation for the move, Johnsen had outlined how to make a successful transition, including discussions on how to retain accreditation with the president of the accrediting body Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

Over 400 UAA students have been impacted by the accreditation revocation, according to Johnsen’s presentation. While students graduating in the spring and summer will still be licensed to work in the state, no guarantees have been offered for later graduates. Michael Johnson, the commission of the Department of Education and Early Development, said the department will offer what support it can while prioritizing K-12 education.

“There’s three priorities that I’ve recommended that the board keeps in mind and that we’ve kept in mind at the department,” Johnson said. “Number one and always the priority education we are providing to K-12 students in the state. Number two, the students that are enrolled in the education program at UAA that have found themselves in this unfortunate situation. And number three, supporting the university as the work through this unfortunate situation.”

Sen. Shelley Hughes asked Johnsen if there would be any firings because of the revocation.

“I can say and this is easily discoverable, the interim director of the program, the provost and the chancellor of UAA those are all new names,” Johnsen said of the young leadership at UAA.

The university has held a number of public forums for education students but the first listening session with the Board of Regents will take place on Feb. 12. The following week, there will be a public testimony call-in opportunity Feb. 19 from 4-6 p.m. The full board will meet in Anchorage Feb. 28-March 1.

In the midst of the SoE accreditation revocation, the institutional accreditation for UAA was renewed by the NWCCU. In an email to the UAA community, Chancellor Cathy Sandeen wrote, “Institutional accreditation is an exhaustive review of every facet of our university. This is a positive milestone that is a testament to the contributions and quality of our students, faculty and staff.”