CEHS leader discusses accreditation probation of university's professional education unit

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following article has been updated to account for factual errors. 

The acting dean of the College of Education and Human Services voiced concerns regarding a probationary period of accreditation for the university’s professional education unit during the Board of Trustee’s Academic and Student Affairs Committee meeting.

The committee met Wednesday, Feb. 15 in the President’s Conference Room in the Bovee University Center. The meeting was a precursor to Thursday’s formal Board of Trustees session.

Elizabeth Kirby, the acting dean of CEHS, discussed plans for the university’s professional education unit to be removed from probationary accreditation status at a later date and talked about what they needed to do to accomplish such a task.

Kirby said she and other members of the professional education unit were disappointed when The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation gave the university’s professional education unit accreditation with probation in fall 2016.

“To say that we are all very disappointed about the accreditation decision is clearly an understatement,” she said.

Although the professional education unit was accredited by another body previously, the new agency, CAEP, became the sole accrediting body for education providers in July 2013, resulting in the combination of two older accrediting bodies.

Kirby said CMU employees involved in the accreditation process took appropriate steps to prepare for the accreditation change, adding that they attended every one of the agency’s conferences, conducted planning sessions and worked with colleagues throughout the state.

“I’m not here to offer excuses, but I am here to explain the process we went through, how the decision came to be and what action we are taking to address this problem,” Kirby said.

The acting dean said part of the problem was the dysfunction within the accrediting agency during the review of the university’s professional education unit because the agency was still in the process of combining the two older accrediting bodies.

“We did not take our eye off this ball, but it was constantly a moving target with CAEP,” she said. “There was great dysfunction at this time within the organization, as these two accrediting bodies tried to come together. It was frustrating.”

Kirby said the accreditation agency told the professional education unit to submit internal evaluations and that it would receive feedback in 2014.

“As of fall of 2016, we still have not received feedback from CAEP,” she said.

Kirby said the accreditation agency’s review process includes an on-site visit by the agency and an audit opinion that rates university professional education units as clean, qualified or adverse. She said CMU’s unit received a clean opinion from the audit — the highest rated opinion.

“So, when he had finished our site visit and the audit was complete, we felt we had a clean audit and we had three areas for improvement, which is pretty typical in an accreditation process,” she said.

After the decision by the agency in the fall of 2016 — which Kirby said she was shocked by — the dean said CMU’s education unit submitted a request to CAEP for reconsideration. On Friday, Feb. 10, Kirby received a letter accepting the request for reconsideration.

The accrediting body will determine whether the university’s professional education unit will remain on probationary status at its accreditation council meeting April 22-24 in 2017.

CMU cannot submit new information for the reconsideration. If the accreditation agency decides to keep the professional education unit on probationary status, it will remain on probation until 2019.

Kirby said those involved in the process are not standing idly by and are taking action to make improvements. She said a consultant was hired to look at every instrument in the agency’s rating system and what the education unit can improve upon.

Kirby said the accrediting body’s biggest problem with the education unit’s instruments is its standards for measuring a teacher candidate’s pedagogical knowledge, or knowledge of teaching.

“I feel like we have a very aggressive plan,” she said. “We meet weekly again on this issue, and we’re leaving nothing unturned in trying to turn this around and assure we have accreditation moving forward.”

After Kirby finished her statements, Trustee Patricia Mooradian asked Kirby if the professional education unit’s accreditation probation would affect the status of students graduating from CEHS in May 2017.

Kirby said it would not because the accreditation is still in effect, even though the professional education unit is on probation.