The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) recently announced that the University of Mary Washington was awarded accreditation for its College of Education (COE), one of the first institutions to undergo a virtual site visit through this accrediting body.
In 2010, the same year UMW’s education program became the College of Education, the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) designated CAEP as the official accreditation body for all teacher preparation programs at Virginia institutions. For the last decade, the council has given its seal of approval to schools across the country that provide aspiring teachers with the knowledge, skills and clinical training they need to serve their students and teach effectively in the classroom.
“It’s a great opportunity for our faculty and staff to take a critical look at how we prepare our students to become teachers,” said COE Dean Pete Kelly, citing UMW’s partnerships with local school divisions as one of the college’s greatest strengths. “Collectively, we emerged from the process with a richer and more holistic perspective on our work, and our students will benefit from that.”
CAEP, the only recognized national accreditor for educator preparation, awards accreditation to schools that have demonstrated excellence in the areas of content and pedagogy, clinical experiences, selectivity, program impact and capacity for continuous improvement.
“Achieving this accreditation is a major accomplishment and a testament to the outstanding and extraordinary hard work of COE faculty and staff, and the steady leadership of Dean Pete Kelly and Associate Dean Courtney Clayton,” said UMW Provost Nina Mikhalevsky.
It was particularly significant, Mikhalevsky continued, as this “very demanding, data-driven and detailed review process” occurred at the same time that “COE faculty were also responding to the state initiative to address the critical teacher shortage by revising the undergraduate curriculum.” In the last two years, the college designed and implemented a new, four-year course of study leading to both an undergraduate degree and state licensure, she added.
COE, which also offers master’s degree and post-baccalaureate programs, was required to demonstrate that it has met five rigorous standards, which include showing that graduates are competent and caring educators, and that the college consistently uses that evidence to enhance the quality of its professional programs.
In light of the pandemic, CAEP standards are currently being revised to include training for virtual teaching, Kelly said.
All teacher preparation programs in Virginia are required to go through this mandatory process, completing a self-study and onsite visit once every seven years, said Kelly, who has served on five national accreditation teams and led his last institution, Missouri’s Truman State University, through CAEP accreditation.
CAEP’s onsite visit had been scheduled for nearly two years, Kelly said, but plans changed abruptly in early March when Mary Washington moved to remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In less than two weeks, COE faculty and staff pivoted to a completely virtual visit, arranging 23 interviews with dozens of participants, spread out across three days.
“Our team made this switch seamlessly under enormous pressure,” Kelly said. “I’m proud of how we responded during that time.”