In 2012, The University of New Mexico’s College of Education (COE) committed to a “Reimagination” of the college — asking itself what needs to be done to become one of the best. A recent review of the college’s programs suggests this “Reimagination” is a reality.
Once every seven years, the COE initiates a self-study and evaluation of current educator preparation programs and practices to support the continuation of institutional accreditation. The COE wanted its programs to demonstrate continuous improvement by offering more diverse opportunities for teacher candidates to exceed and excel.
On June 2, the COE received news from the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) that the college — specifically the Educator Preparation, initial (ITP) and advanced (ADV) programs — met standards for accreditation.
“The process was very fair and thorough,” said Gloria Napper-Owen, COE associate dean for assessment, accountability & accreditation. “We had an immense amount of data to provide and support our continuous improvement efforts.”
“The impact that our graduates have on their students can not be understated. It is our goal to have more culturally, linguistically, responsive teacher candidates serve the children of New Mexico.” – Hector Ochoa, dean, UNM College of Education
Higher education accreditation is a type of quality assurance. NCATE specifically is considered the gold standard for teacher preparation. Under its accreditation, the COE has proven it meets and maintains standards of quality and integrity regarding curriculum, clinical practices, assessment of candidates and programs, administration, and related services. It is a voluntary process based on the principle of academic self-governance.
The Accreditation Action Report listed six standards the COE met for continued accreditation:
- Candidate Knowledge, Skills and Professional Dispositions
- Assessment System and Unit Evaluation
- Field Experiences and Clinical Practice
- Faculty Qualifications, Performance and Development
- Unit Governance and Resources
As part of the accreditation review, key assessments were conducted on teacher candidates. The data collected indicated that UNM’s teacher candidates met or exceeded program expectations regarding instructional delivery and lesson planning.
While the Accreditation Action Report highlighted that the college met all six standards, the report did indicate there are areas for improvement (AFIs) that the college should address and report on yearly to show enhancements.
“We are very pleased and proud we met all standards,” said COE Dean Hector Ochoa. “It was expected that there are areas that we can improve our work. We work in a continuous improvement model—always looking for ways to improve our program.”
The areas marked for improvement included ensuring reliable assessment methods and practices and the need for more formal structures to coordinate educator preparation with other UNM colleges to ensure candidates receive subject area content knowledge such as math and social sciences.
These areas marked for improvement were not a surprise to the COE. In fact, since 2007 the college has worked to develop a new assessment system that would enhance their evaluation of potential of teacher candidates. This was accomplished by instituting a more rigorous process of evaluation. Teacher preparation candidates are now formally evaluated at admission, throughout their program, at program completion and within the first three years of teaching.
“We feel confident that as we continue to develop and enhance our assessment procedures and processes, we will meet the new, more rigorous national standards. Thus we will have more information on the quality of our candidates as they leave us and move into their first three years of teaching,” said Ochoa.
Additionally, he said, “Over this past academic year, the COE has taken steps to strengthen partnerships across campus and with our state partners.”
The trend for more rigorous standards has also been implemented by the New Mexico Public Education Department (PED). In January 2015, PED introduced a new series of licensure examinations for teacher candidates. Previously teacher candidates took the New Mexico Teacher Assessment for pedagogy and content. The new exams are the National Evaluation Series, that include tests on content, pedagogy and reading assessment.
An important initiative that the COE implemented during the 2015-2016 academic year was the establishment of a statewide Curricular Advisory Committee (CAC) composed of 25 educational professionals with varying expertise. Some of the experts on the CAC represent math, science, social studies, English and language arts, early childhood education, bilingual education, disability, Native American education, mental health in addition to the participation of school superintendents, principals and classroom teachers.
The CAC meets three times a year to provide a critical review and input regarding best practices pertaining to educator preparation.
“We are very appreciative of the CACs contributions and their efforts to enhance the quality of our programs at UNM,” says Ochoa.
NCATE was formed in 1956. The University first received the accreditation designation in the late 1950s. Over the last six decades, attaining and maintaining accreditation has become more rigorous and thorough.
“The impact that our graduates have on their students can not be understated,” says Ochoa. “It is our goal to have more culturally, linguistically, responsive teacher candidates serve the children of New Mexico.”