June 26, 2000
Volume 52, No. 36
Educational Studies earns national accrediation
By Eric Rangus
Two years ago, the Division of Educational Studies began preparing itself for a test to determine whether it was suitable for national accreditation. Two months ago, the division learned it passed with flying colors.
On April 6, Emory received notification from the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) that DES had indeed earned national accreditation at the initial-teacher-preparation and advanced levels. Emory is one of 21 state institutions to receive accreditation, which will be up for renewal in 2004.
"There is a strong move now toward the adoption of national standards," said Bob Jensen, director of graduate studies and the coordinator of the accreditation effort. "So, if you have state accreditation, you might as well get national recognition."
Georgia schools only hire teachers accredited by the Georgia Standards and Practices Commission, and Emory's division has long been accredited by the state.
On the surface, the division's national accreditation does not give its graduates blanket coverage to be hired by every state-they still have to meet that particular state's teacher qualifications. But a degree from a now-nationally accredited institution like Emory will help out quite a bit, as well as enhance the Univer-sity's reputation.
Perhaps the most important part of the accreditation process was that preparation for it made educational studies take stock of itself-and is much better for it.
"In terms of the commitment involved, it was an ordeal," Jensen said. "It was good for us to take a hard look at ourselves and make changes to improve the program."
NCATE tests universities on 20 standards spread over four categories: program design, strength of the degree candidates, teaching faculty and departmental resources. Emory met every standard without weakness, which is a rarity. "Usually [an evaluation] team will try to nitpick something," Jensen said.
A dozen NCATE evaluators descended upon the University for almost a week last fall and basically looked in every corner and turned over every paper in the division. They traveled to middle and high schools with student teachers and visited classes on campus.
The division produced thick books of information responding to each NCATE standard, outlining how Emory met each one and backed up its claims. Jensen said this kind of checking and balancing helped DES state its case for accreditation clearly. Just as important, Jensen noted, was that the process made the evaluators' job easier, which only helped Emory's cause.
DES is not large (it graduates less than 20 students a year and boasts just 11 faculty members), but it is effective. All the program's 1999 graduates have been placed, and many of those from the Class of 2000 have also found jobs.
"We have a central commitment to educate a small cadre of reflective teachers and educational researchers who are competent and committed to working with diverse student populations and are able to envision schools as they might become, rather than preserve schools as they presently exist," he said.