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DSU education program receives CAEP accreditation

December 15, 2016

The Dakota State University College of Education definitely doesn’t have a “stick-in-the-mud” attitude, even after 135 years of teaching teachers.

When the college’s accreditation with NCATE (the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education) was set to expire this year, they decided to be an early adopter of the new accreditation organization CAEP (Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation).

NCATE and TEAC (Teacher Education Accreditation Council) combined into CAEP in 2013. While DSU had the option to do a legacy visit with NCATE, “We wanted to look to the future and how could we improve our programs moving forward,” said Dean of the College of Education Crystal Pauli. “We thought ‘upward and onward’.”

Faculty were on board with this decision.

“I’m proud to work for a university that was willing to go through the CAEP process early, and do the work needed for that,” said Katie Anderson, an instructor with the College of Education.

That work included a site team visit and recommendations from review panels. The college worked to provide evidence on five standards: content and pedagogical knowledge, clinical partnerships and practice, candidate quality, recruitment and selectivity, program impact, and provider quality assurance and continuous improvement. Continuous improvement plans are also part of the CAEP process.

Since the process was new, there were no exemplar reports available for reference, but Pauli said CAEP held webinars and offered the help of a consultant. They were also able to talk with other schools who were early adopters, such as the University of Sioux Falls. This helped “bounce ideas off each other” and get feedback for clarifications.

“CAEP is very assessment- and data-driven,” Pauli said. Anderson added that she expected the process to be rigorous, but faculty and staff put in about 18 months gathering data, analyzing data, and on program reflection.

They provided data on student grades, students’ performance on standardized tests such as the Praxis, student performance on field experiences including student teaching, data on the schools where they place students, and input from cooperating teachers.

With that data, and reports from the spring site visit, CAEP announced last month in a letter to DSU President Dr. José-Marie Griffiths that “The College of Education at Dakota State University is granted initial accreditation for seven years,” with one area for improvement (AFI) for “quality assurance and continuous improvement.” This category involves reliability and validity studies, Pauli said, and they will work next year to update their assessment forms for this, Pauli said.

She appreciates CAEP’s continuous improvement model because it encourages the teachers to think about their data, and what they will do with it.

“We’re all good collectors of data but I don’t know that we’re always good users of data,” she said, “analyzing it in the most effective way.” The continuous improvement process will help “us make small steps that in the end make a big impact.”

Griffiths said this accreditation is just another example of the big impact the school has made during its 135-year history of teaching teachers.

“This new accreditation gives modern-day validity to Dakota State University’s heritage mission of education,” said Griffiths.

Dakota State also has a new, modern-day signature mission -- technology.

“The faculty and staff’s proactive attitude with the new CAEP accreditation system speaks to their willingness to build on the program’s strong historic foundation and become a leader in education for the 21st century,” Griffiths added.

Anderson sees the need to be forward-looking.

“A good teacher today is different from a good teacher 15 years ago.”

Pauli said the accreditation means that DSU education majors “are able to help K-12 students learn to the best of their ability,” by knowing how to teach, how to assess, how to manage a classroom.

The accreditation is also a benefit to the education majors, as they “can be assured that when they walk into a classroom they are ready to go,” said Anderson, with foundational skills, problem-solving skills, and the ability to create an environment where students can learn.

Both Anderson and Pauli feel the accreditation will mean increased retention in the profession.

Senior elementary education major Jenna Sorsen from Plankinton, S.D. said the accreditation gives her confidence as she looks to begin her student teaching during the spring semester at Longfellow Elementary in Mitchell, S.D.

“I know backbone of education, and am being molded into the teacher I want to be.”

 “That’s what CAEP is all about, to be successful and meet the needs of the students,” Anderson added.

The DSU College of Education has been training teachers since the Madison-based school was created in 1881, and has made a big impact on schools and students. Graduates include some very outstanding students who are now leaders, Pauli said, either within ranks of teachers, or as administrators.

“Once you get some good processes in place, and some good people in place, good things happen, and then you build on it,” said Pauli. “That’s what happened here.”