UAS program eyes nat'l accreditation

Examiners give strong recommendation on teacher-education curriculum to nat'l panel

Posted: Friday, October 29, 2004

The University of Alaska Southeast's teacher-education programs are getting good marks from a national accreditation program.

Five examiners from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education were on the Juneau campus earlier this month. They gave a positive recommendation, which will go before a second NCATE panel in March for possible accreditation.

About 350 students are enrolled in various UAS teacher programs, some by distance from other sites in Alaska. Nearly half of 346 graduates from the past five years teach in Alaska, according to the university.

Rachel Hinman, a 31-year-old student teacher in the school's master of arts in teaching program, said the M.A.T. allows her to build on her geography degree and gain a new profession. She's teaching seventh- and eighth-graders at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School.

She wanted to do more with her degree than make maps, but she didn't want to spend several years training to be a teacher.

"I guess in a way I've always liked working with kids," Hinman said. "They have interesting ideas. Especially in these grades, they have things you wouldn't think about."

Tom Milliron, principal at Floyd Dryden Middle School, has hired an M.A.T. graduate in each of the last two years. They're a known quantity from a program he respects, he said.

The 12-month M.A.T. program weekly combines four days of student teaching and an evening and a day in the college classroom.

Over the years NCATE has changed its focus from reviewing colleges' physical resources, such as library books, to curriculum, to student knowledge, and now to how well students can teach, said spokeswoman Jane Leibrand.

UAS started preparing for the review several years ago. It studied itself and submitted reports about each academic subject to national organizations of educators.

In response, the program changed the way it assesses student proficiency, said Marilyn Taylor, dean of the UAS Center for Teacher Education.

Students now undergo several assessments at different times in their education. They are compared to state and university standards by UAS faculty and teachers in the schools where they student teach.

"It's actively watching somebody teach and looking at it in terms of Alaska teacher standards," Taylor said.

When students leave a program, they submit a portfolio in which they reflect on what they learned and provide evidence, such as lesson plans. The graduates also are reviewed after their first and third years as teachers.

The UAS program already is accredited in the Northwest. But the Alaska Board of Education requires all teacher-preparation programs in the state to be accredited by NCATE by 2006.

NCATE is a coalition of 33 national specialty organizations representing educators, administrators and policy makers. An example is an association of social studies teachers. About a third of teacher-education programs in the United States are accredited by NCATE.

"It's the profession putting its seal of approval on the institution, and the institution meeting national professional standards," NCATE spokeswoman Leibrand said from Washington, D.C.

NCATE can't comment on UAS until it has decided whether to accredit it, she said.

Marilyn Feldmann, a City University of New York professor who chaired the board of examiners, said in a telephone interview only that UAS "got a very positive recommendation."

Before leaving campus Oct. 13, the examiners told UAS staffers that the school met NCATE's six standards, both for its current students and for graduates working as teachers.

The examiners looked at college students' knowledge of subject matter and skills in teaching, how the college assesses its students, the college students' experience as student teachers, whether the college prepares students to teach children from diverse cultures, the faculty's qualifications, and the program's financial resources.

UAS offers a bachelor of arts degree in elementary education; master's degrees in education in five fields; master of arts in teaching degrees in four specialties; and post-baccalaureate programs in several fields.

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