By Nancy F. Barrett
Accreditation has the potential to be a powerful, positive tool for education preparation programs. In addition to providing a “seal of approval” to potential students, parents and external stakeholders, programs can use evidence gathered during the accreditation process to improve existing programs, identify potential new initiatives as well as document outcome attainment. However, very often the accreditation process can be unwieldy and burdensome because of the seemingly endless set of requirements.
AAQEP’s proposed accreditation process seeks to avoid this pitfall by simplifying and streamlining the requirements. In its Expectations Framework document, AAQEP articulates four standards that clearly outline the elements important for quality teacher education programs. Two address candidate and completer preparation and the other two address program requirements.
To document achieving its accreditation standards, AAQEP indicates that programs will be able to define the measurement tools they will use. Collection methods would need to be robust using multiple direct and indirect measures to document candidate/completer teaching skills and dispositions as well as content and pedagogical knowledge. Whatever instruments or methods are used for data collection, programs need to document their validity and reliability. All of the guidelines set out by AAQEP are straightforward and reflect best practice in the field of program evaluation and student assessment.
Besides allowing programs the ability to determine their own measures to document outcome attainment, AAQEP indicates that there is the option of presenting evidence on one standard at a time during the accreditation cycle. This option has the advantage of giving faculty the time needed to address each standard in a systematic and thoughtful manner resulting in a better preparation program in the long run.
While AAQEP’s proposed accreditation system seems to allow programs a great deal of flexibility, their Data Audit Planning Framework seems to provide programs with guidance in selecting appropriate evidence. As with the standards themselves, their suggestions identify program based artifacts that most teacher preparation programs probably already collect to ensure program quality.
All in all, AAQEP’s proposed accreditation process seems to provide the structure for a streamlined, evidence-based assessment of teacher education programs. If it delivers on that promise, EPPs can use this framework to systematically and thoughtfully review their training programs, resulting in programs that strive always for excellence.
Nancy F. Barrett is the Coordinator of Assessment and Accreditation at the University of Illinois Springfield College of Education and Human Services.