The process of teaching is, by its nature, subject to constant change. Educators, from preschool through higher education, must stay abreast of societal issues, new research and evolving technologies to provide their students with learning pathways to success. Now, a new accreditation process at Syracuse University’s School of Education ensures that its programs are producing effective and innovative educators, prepared to take on challenges, advance their field and shape student success for years to come.
Recently, the Association for Advancing Quality in Educator Preparation (AAQEP) awarded full accreditation to the School of Education’s teacher and leader education programs, through 2027. Accreditation through AAQEP is a national accreditation process designed to promote excellent, effective, and innovative educator preparation that is committed to evidence-based improvement in a collaborative professional environment. The accreditation process was lengthy, involving the review of programs, assessment systems and data collection over several years.
According to the AAQEP Accreditation Commission: “The evidence showed that program completers are prepared to work effectively as professional educators and that they are able to adapt to different contexts and to grow professionally. The program engages with stakeholders and partners to strengthen the P-20 education system locally and across the state.”
School of Education Dean Joanna Masingila explains that AAQEP is a forward-thinking accreditation body that offered an opportunity to be “on the cutting edge of teacher and leader preparation.”
The school was previously accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). NCATE merged with another accrediting organization and became the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). The School of Education was preparing for an accreditation review with CAEP in 2018 when the option for AAQEP became available. Masingila described the previous accreditation approach as rigid and a “one-size-fits-all model” compared to the AAQEP process, which is collaborative, engaging programs in the process of adapting assessment models to changing times.
Kimberly Salanger, School of Education accreditation assessment coordinator, says it is inspiring to collaborate with a dozen other peer institutions and be encouraged to be innovative. “We learned a great deal, felt supported and felt like a member of something bigger than ourselves,” Salanger says.
Jason Curry, Ph.D., assistant teaching professor and faculty assessment coordinator, says this forward-looking approach “trickles down into our programs, as we look for innovative and unique ways to assess the work that we are doing in preparing future educators and providing evidence to measure quality.”
Curry says the AAQEP process encourages partner institutions to have action plans to improve upon educational programs, “to recognize things that we don’t do as well as we should.” For example, there’s an ongoing conversation among educators, and growing frustration with current New York state standards regarding “culturally responsive pedagogies” including language that is no longer relevant today as the nation deals with a racial reckoning. Curry looks forward to working with AAQEP, School of Education faculty and peer institutions to address these concerns.
“How are we going to support incoming undergraduate students entering higher education in the fall after a year of largely learning remotely? What unique needs do they have? And how are we preparing teachers who may have students next year who only have remote-learning experience from the previous year?” Masingila says. “The AAQEP process of collaboration allows us to respond in the moment, to be innovative and to adopt the standards and assessments that fit the outcomes we want for the educators we are preparing.”
Another pressing issue facing educators and those who train them is digital pedagogy and practice, a signature area for Syracuse University.
AAQEP promotes innovation to address the needs of students in teachers’ classrooms but requires programs to identify or develop evidence-based solutions.
Curry notes that the process to evolve, adapt, and develop new standards is critically important to faculty. “As an example, efforts by our faculty are currently underway to address the challenges related to preparing and assessing future educators for teaching and leading in ways that promote anti-racism and inclusion throughout our programs. AAQEP provides a framework that promotes quality review and collaborative guidance to support this important work,” says Curry.
“No curriculum is perfect,” says Masingila. “The way we’ve always done things is not perfect. It’s our job to raise awareness and give future teachers and academic leaders the tools they need to be responsive, to continuously improve, and to always be learners while they are being educators.” The new AAQEP approach to accreditation and the process it endorses offers the kind of support future educators need to excel both in the classroom and in working with their colleagues and students’ families.