So you’ve considered all your options, picked the career of your dreams, found the program that meets your goals, lined up financial aid, taken all the prerequisites and tests and applied to the school. But wait, how do you know your program is going to be really good? After all, you’re making a considerable commitment here. What’s the guarantee?
The GSE has been accredited continuously by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) since 1959—just after they began offering accreditation. Accreditation is the profession’s mechanism to guarantee high-quality teacher, specialist, and administrator preparation. Professional accreditation of schools and colleges of education assures institutions like PSU are held to the highest standards. The GSE isn’t just the largest teacher education school in the state, we also work hard to continuously improve our processes. Accreditation ensures that we provide many benefits for our students:
• We support learning, make clear our expectations, and give helpful feedback
• We verify each candidate’s qualifications and ensure that the teachers, counselors, and administrators we prepare are adequately equipped for their new professional roles
• We verify program effectiveness so that we can maintain our reputation for high-quality programs
• We identify areas for program improvement, showing our commitment to quality
Accreditation takes place every seven years
The initiative to update and expand the GSE’s assessment system began in fall 2006 and proved to be vital during our accreditation process this year. Our assessment system has evolved into a variety of measures: performance evaluation of our candidates, their evaluation of us, and surveys of principals, former graduates, and cooperating teachers.
In early fall 2009, using collected data, the GSE, led by Associate Dean Steve Isaacson, prepared and submitted accreditation reports to NCATE and the Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission (TSPC). New this year was a paperless system—an electronic exhibit room—created to collect data and store assessment tools and reports that showed evidence that we had met state and national standards. The exhibit room was made available on a website that could be viewed both internally and externally by the accrediting team. In November 2009, a joint team from both national and state accrediting bodies visited the PSU campus to interview faculty, students, and community partners.
Highest marks for three areas
The team of visiting examiners was very impressed with the GSE and its faculty. The GSE met all six NCATE standards, both for initial- and advanced-level programs. Those standards address candidate knowledge, skills, and dispositions; our assessment system; field experiences; diversity; faculty qualifications and scholarship; and GSE governance and resources. Each standard receives one of three ratings: unacceptable, acceptable, and target. It is unusual for examiners to award target (outstanding) ratings, but the GSE received three. The Board of Examiners commended us for faculty scholarship, unit leadership, and resourceful management of our budget. In its report, the Board of Examiners specifically praised our support of faculty research; collaboration with our preK–12 practitioners and advisory bodies; our centralized marketing and recruitment efforts; and the use of self-support revenue to strengthen exemplary teaching, scholarship, and service.
This year, the GSE was also evaluated by the Oregon TSPC—the state’s education licensing board. TSPC’s evaluation was very positive. The GSE received a 61 out of a possible 62 in the state standards portion for teacher preparation programs. TSPC also approved PSU for continuing accreditation.
Assessment practices are key
The result of four years of assessment data and our recent reaccreditation are motivation to continue evaluating what we do and how we do it. We strive to reach an even higher standard of preparing our graduates with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to be the very best education professionals in the nation. We continue to enhance the diversity of our faculty, our candidates, and our candidates’ abilities to address the needs of a increasingly diverse population of preK–12 students. In this rapidly changing world, we know that the best thing we can give our candidates is the ability to evaluate their own skills through assessing student growth and reflecting on their impact on student learning.