UAA's education program five years later

UAA’s education program has experienced many obstacles in the last half-decade – with the impact of CAEP’s accreditation revocation being the largest.

Photo from Unsplash, uploaded by Shubham Sharan

UAA’s School of Education has seen many obstacles in recent years, but it still exists. Due to the demand for new teachers in the state of Alaska, UAA has seen a large uptick of education degree seekers.

In 2018, UAA’s school of education lost its initial licensure accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. Initial licensure accreditation is a certification necessary for becoming a P-12 educator.

This meant that UAA lost accreditation for some of its base education programs such as the Elementary Bachelor of Arts.

The aftermath of the accreditation revocation made it difficult or impossible for new students to seek cartain education degrees at UAA.

Programs like Early Childhood Special Education and Master of Education in Teaching and Learning were not affected – those are programs affiliated with advanced licensure.

UAA still has their advanced licensure accreditation, which allows students who have already received initial licensure to continue some programs.

Accreditation is important because CAEP accredits educator preparation programs, where future teachers are taught how to be educators. Accreditation through CAEP makes sure all standards to become an educator are met.

Before 2018, Dean of Education Tonia Dousay said the education department had approximately 40 faculty – while current numbers sit at a mere eight. These faculty oversee early childhood education, special education, educational literacy, educational leadership and teaching and learning.

Dousay noted that there are approximately 22 education programs currently running.

With only four universities in the state that can certify teachers, Dousay said that admission demand is high.

With 22 simultaneous programs and only eight faculty, UAA did not have enough faculty to teach all of the School of Education’s classes last year.

“We went from zero students, to 40, to 60. I looked last night, there’s 102 in the undergrad program as of yesterday. We have almost tripled enrollment in that program. We are conducting faculty searches this year,” said Dousay.

A new summer class called “Praxis Prep” is now offered as an elective to help students prepare for the Praxis exam. The exam evaluates a student’s knowledge of their previously taken courses and future educator performance, according to the Praxis webpage.

Along with standard classes for future educators, a new program has been developed after UAA’s initial licensure accreditation removal in 2018.

The new program creates students who are labeled as “Stop Out Students.” Six students are currently participating in the program and it is designed to help them integrate back into classes after they stalled out in 2018. UAA will be giving out awards through the program, which will cover at least one credit or one class.

Dousay said that, while the number of students who graduated after transferring to alternative programs during or after the school of education lost initial licensure accreditation is unknown, many students stalled out, with most at the early childhood level.

Alissa Rountree is a local elementary Anchorage School District educator who attended classes at UAA during the time accreditation was lost.

Rountree decided to finish her degree at University of Alaska Southeast, with many of her UAA graduating class also making the decision to transfer to other University of Alaska campuses.

“I wasn't really worried I wasn't going to be able to graduate. I just didn't know what that would look like. I didn't know if I would have to transfer schools or take longer. I guess I was worried I wouldn't graduate on my same projected time. But I knew they would have to figure something out to help out the students who were in my situation,” said Rountree.

Rountree continued, saying that “When I went to get my masters, I noticed one of my pre-reqs was you have to have graduated from an accredited program. I wouldn't have been able to do my masters degree through this program if I had not transferred. That was one of the reasons I decided not to stay at UAA, just to ensure I had the option of teaching in a different state.”

Dousay said “As soon as we get our CAEP initial licensure back, we can offer any undergraduate insecure plan. It’s likely that we will target the performing arts because UAA, of the three universities, has the larger performing arts programs. We might look at some of the career and technical education fields.”

UAA still has accreditation on advanced programs, but initial licensure will not be renewed until 2028.