Accreditation demonstrates quality of NAU’s education programs

College of Education

After a five-year process, the Professional Education Unit at Northern Arizona University has earned a prestigious national accreditation.

The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education recently announced its accreditation of NAU’s professional education programs, culminating a review that involved two site visits, an extensive database of coursework and student outcomes assessments, and numerous reports from individual programs to their respective professional associations.

“It’s a validation of the quality of work our faculty members are doing to prepare PK-12 education professionals,” said Kathy Hildebrand, assistant vice provost at NAU. “The council has very high standards.”

Hildebrand, who noted that NAU is the only institution in the state accredited by the council, oversaw the review process from its beginning in 2006. She explained how accreditation ensures that NAU’s education programs “have assessment plans and are implementing them, which provides evidence that our graduates are meeting national standards.”

Data is collected on every student in the education programs, Hildebrand said, including those in discipline-specific teacher preparation programs outside the College of Education, as well as Extended Campuses students. Coursework assignments are “designed to map to national standards,” and student teaching assignments “show that our teachers are promoting learning among their students.”

“Our efforts with student assessment are consistent with the university’s efforts at promoting student outcomes assessment,” Hildebrand said.

Hildebrand noted that a major step taken during this accreditation cycle was to put a system in place that comprehensively addresses the requirements of the review process. “I think the system is a huge accomplishment,” Hildebrand said, pointing out an assessment system website that includes a handbook and resources for faculty.

Among the many benefits of accreditation, Hildebrand said, is the advantage that may be gained by NAU students. She explained that those seeking work out of state often find that schools prefer graduates from a school with NCATE accreditation.

While earning the accreditation is a point of pride, Hildebrand said there is little time to pause. “We’re always working to improve things,” she said. “Several of the professional associations have updated their standards, so we have to update our assessments.”

The next series of program reports for re-accreditation are due in 2014.