UAA School of Education loses accreditation for certain programs

Photo of UAA. Photo by Chase Burnett.
Photo by Chase Burnett.

By Cheyenne Mathews and Chase Burnett

Updated Jan. 15

What could have been the last first day of school for some UAA education students turned into a day of confusion. On Jan. 11, UAA’s School of Education sent out an email to education students stating that the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation did not renew accreditation for some School of Education programs.

 

At a student forum on Jan. 14, Interim Director of the School of Education, Claudia Dybdahl, said that the programs affected by the loss of accreditation are early childhood education, early elementary education, master of arts in teaching secondary education, special education and early childhood education.

According to the CAEP, accreditation is, “quality assurance through external peer review. When an institution or specialized program is accredited, it has demonstrated that it meets standards set by organizations representing the academic community, professionals and other stakeholders.”

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The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development sent out a press release on Jan. 15 stating spring 2019 and summer 2019 graduates will still have their institutional recommendation for initial licensure.

However, the statement is unclear about whether future graduates of the program will still receive such recommendation. In a Blackboard Collaborate online forum led by Dr. Ira Ortega, graduating seniors were advised to finish out their classes at UAA, while sophomores were advised to transfer to UAF or UAS.

In the press release, Education Commissioner Michael Johnson states, “At a time when Alaska ranks at the bottom of our country in fourth grade reading, this critical review of the UAA initial teacher licensure programs must be taken with the gravest concern.”

In a video posted on Facebook, Chancellor Cathy Sandeen praised the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development’s decision to grant licenses to students graduating in the spring and summer of 2019.

“We will continue to work on the process for transferring, seamless transfer, to either UAF or UAS if that’s what you want to do,” Sandeen said.

An FAQ and the CAEP accreditation action report has been posted on the School of Education’s homepage.

According to the report, UAA failed four out of the five CAEP standards for accreditation. UAA submitted their self-study report to CAEP in August of 2017. UAA received a formative feedback report from CAEP detailing which standards UAA didn’t meet in December of 2017.

They further explain the accreditation situation and its implications for students.

“The seamless transfer bit is what’s complicated. One-third of the credits have to come from the place you’re transferring to,” Steve Atwater, the dean of the College of Education at UAS, said in a town hall meeting with secondary education students.

Chancellor Cathy Sandeen was present at the Jan. 14 forum and she emphasized that graduating students would be able to graduate from an accredited institution, if not an accredited program. The entire institution of UAA is currently under an accreditation process by the Northwest Accreditation Commission.

UAA does not have a timeline in place for how long it will take to reinstate the School of Education’s accreditation, but that reapplication for accreditation won’t take place until 2020.

“Every person will have a different situation, so this is going to have to be very customized to the individual student depending on their situation,” Sandeen said.

Early education majors face the most complicated situation. The only early education program in the state resides in UAA’s School of Education. A seamless transfer to another early education program in-state is impossible.

Keldon Irwin, elementary education, attended the forum and said, “Having individuals training to teach 3-year-olds being told that the only  place within 2,500 miles where they can earn that degree is just cut out from under their feet three days ago with no prior warning, it just makes you feel like a dollar sign.”

Dybdahl stated at the forum that the School of Education was surprised by CAEP’s decision. The forum was held in multiple rooms in the Professional Studies Building after room 216 was filled over capacity by students. Students cited concerns about the uncertainty of their program and the lack of transparency by the school in questions.

The state board will review the timeline of the CAEP accreditation process at a work session on Feb. 4 to decide next steps.  

 

This is a developing story and will be updated as new information becomes available.