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Monday, August 4, 2008

UNCP’s Teacher Education Program earns state, national re-accreditation

UNC Pembroke’s Teacher Education Program (TEP) received notification recently from state and national agencies that it has earned continuing accreditation status.

Zoe Locklear (left) with Sara Simmons

Zoe Locklear (left) with Sara Simmons

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The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) notified the University in a May 1 letter of its decision to continue the accreditation of the TEP. The next on-site visit will take place in fall 2014.

“This accreditation decision indicates that the unit and its programs meet rigorous standards set forth by the professional education community,” NCATE officials said in their letter.

At its June 2008 meeting, the North Carolina State Board of Education granted full approval through 2014-15 for all of the UNCP teacher preparation programs that were reviewed during the renewal cycle.

It was an extraordinarily successful conclusion to a lengthy and time consuming process. Chancellor Allen C. Meadors offered congratulations.

“Teacher education is our historic mission and one that remains critical to our success and our region’s success,” Chancellor Meadors said. “This is an excellent report with exemplary marks in several important areas including faculty modeling of best practices, curriculum and experiences focusing on diversity, and collaboration with public school partners.

“Everyone associated with the Teacher Education Program should be extremely pleased with the expected positive outcome of this accreditation visit,” he concluded. “I want to express my deepest appreciation and thanks to all who help provide our students with a great education.”

Dr. Zoe Locklear, dean of the School of Education, acknowledged the challenges and the benefits of accreditation.

“Both the University and the Teacher Education Program recognize the value of the accreditation process and remain committed to the potential for continuous and ongoing improvement afforded by external review,” she said.

The self-study required by the accreditation process provides an opportunity for teacher education faculty to look closely at all aspects of their programs in order to determine what is working well and what needs to be improved.

Dean Locklear thanked the many people involved in the project.

“This massive effort and the positive results required the strong commitment, willing cooperation, and focused effort of many, many individuals working in concert,” she said.

“Lengthy reports were written and crates of evidence were filled with supporting documentation. Visit details had to be worked out, including transportation, meals, work space, and supplies,” Dr. Locklear continued. “We worked closely with our public school partners, students, graduates, administrators and faculty to make this happen successfully.”

The last accreditation visit was five years ago and much has changed. There are twice as many students and faculty. New programs were added, such as a graduate program in School Administration and a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program with eight areas of specialization. In addition, more courses are being taught online, and some programs and courses now are offered at several satellite campuses.

On November 10, 2007, 25 members of national and state accreditation review teams arrived on the UNCP campus for a five day, on-site visit. During that visit, the overall Teacher Education Program and each of the individual educator preparation programs offered at UNCP were scrutinized.

The state reviews the individual educator preparation programs offered by the institution. NCATE, the national accrediting body reviews the unit, the overall UNCP Teacher Education Program.

Teacher education programs at universities that are part of the University of North Carolina System are required to maintain both national and state-level accreditation.

All of UNCP’s educator preparation programs were judged to have met the state’s program approval standards.

The Teacher Education Program was found to have an “impressive” conceptual framework, and it was deemed to have met all six of the NCATE standards.

The NCATE review team uses a measurement tool that describes proficiency levels at which each element of all standards are addressed. Institutions must achieve the “acceptable” scores to meet the standards.

The Teacher Education Program surpassed that baseline by being rated at the highest level, which NCATE calls “target,” in seven areas, according to Dr. Sara Simmons, the associate dean for accountability and outreach for the School of Education.

“As far as we can determine, this performance is quite remarkable and out-of-the-ordinary,” she said.

Dr. Simmons continued, “Those high ratings were earned in areas of the NCATE standards that are valued most highly by our teacher education faculty, public school partners, and candidates - Standard 3: field experiences and clinical practice; Standard 4: diversity; and standard 5: faculty qualifications, performance and development.”

The NCATE review team, a group of individuals with much experience serving on visiting teams, was struck by the positive relationships between students and faculty at UNCP.

The chair of the NCATE team remarked that they had never heard such positive comments from students at other institutions. He shared the general consensus of UNCP teacher education students: “We don’t just like our faculty, we love them!”

“The positive regard that students have for faculty is such a wonderful indication of the theme of the Teacher Education Program’s conceptual framework: ‘Preparing professional educators who are committed, collaborative, and competent,’” said Dr. Collie Coleman, associate vice chancellor for the Office for Outreach.

Dr. Locklear and her TEP team were most pleased as well.

“These student comments are such a compliment to faculty members and to this institution,” Dr. Locklear said.

 “Perhaps the most important thing we learned from this process is that our graduates say they were well prepared,” Dr. Simmons said. “UNCP prides itself on providing a ‘personal touch’ in education, and our current students and graduates confirmed it.”

Preparation for the on-campus visit by the two accreditation teams began in earnest almost four years ago. In the fall of 2004, Dr. Simmons was tapped to lead program coordinators, program directors, faculty, administrators and staff as they began to plan how to accomplish the multitude of tasks that needed to be done.

“At that time, none of us fully understood how enormous an endeavor the accreditation process was,” Dr. Simmons said. “Essentially, the preparation for DPI accreditation is one huge project, and the preparation for NCATE accreditation is another huge project.”

Several shelves of a bookcase in Dr. Simmons’ office are full of bound reports, handbooks and supporting documents line the walls in crates. Twenty-four separate reports, each averaging 200 pages, were written for the state review team. For the NCATE review team, Dr. Simmons wrote an “institutional report” that was limited to 100 pages. However, that report was supplemented with hyperlinks to 276 supporting documents/files and three large evidence crates containing printed documents.

Dr. Simmons stated, “Special credit should be given to Dr. Debbie Thompson, who was willing to step in at a critical point to oversee some important tasks. We kept each other going during those times when the whole process seemed impossible.”

Dr. Simmons also acknowledged the contributions of several key faculty members who retired or changed jobs in the months leading up to the accreditation visit. “Dr. Warren Baker, Dr. Jane Huffman, Dr. Sharon Sharp, and Ms. Pam Carroll all played a critical role in laying a solid foundation for us to build upon,” she said. “Their contributions were highly significant.”

In the end, Dr. Simmons said re-accreditation is a source of pride for the entire University and its public school partners.

“The success of the accreditation visit can be attributed to a phenomenal level of teamwork and ‘can-do spirit’ by all of the stakeholders who were involved,” she said. “We are gratified that the high quality of the UNCP Teacher Education Program was recognized and affirmed by the state and national accreditation teams.

“We’re very proud of the programs, our faculty and our current and former students,” she said. “This is our stamp of approval.”

UNCP’s Teacher Education Program offers a broad range of educator preparation programs, including undergraduate programs, master’s degree teacher licensure programs, master’s degree programs for other school personnel, and add-on licensure programs.

Subject to review by the state accreditation team were twelve licensure programs at the undergraduate level: Art Education, Biology Education, Birth-Kindergarten Education, Elementary Education, English Education, Mathematics Education, Middle Grades Education, Music Education, Physical Education, Science Education, Social Studies Education, and Special Education.

At the graduate level, the state’s visiting team reviewed ten advanced M.A. or M.A.Ed. teacher licensure programs: Art Education, Elementary Education, English Education, Mathematics Education, Middle Grades Education, Music Education, Physical Education, Reading Education, Science Education and Social Studies Education.

The state team reviewed the Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) Program with eight areas of specialization, including Art, English, Mathematics, Middle Grades, Music, Physical Education, Science and Social Studies.

Also subject to review were two graduate programs for other school personnel—the School Administration (MSA) and School Counseling programs—and three add-on licensure programs—Preschool, English as a Second Language (ESL) and School Administration.

For more information about UNCP’s School of Education, please call 910.521.6539 or email soe@uncp.edu.

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