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UAA working to correct failures, regain students’ trust

  • Author: Cathy Sandeen
    | Opinion
  • Updated: January 29
  • Published January 29

UAA School of Education interim director Claudia Dybdahl explains the School of Education's loss of accreditation for its initial licensure programs to a classroom full of students on Monday, Jan. 14, 2019. The Council for the Accreditation of Education Preparation (CAEP) notified the university last Friday that its accreditation of these programs had not been renewed. (Bill Roth/ ADN)

We appreciate that University of Alaska Anchorage students choose to invest in us for their education and their futures. We are grateful to the extended UAA community that invests in us every day through valuable partnerships, the support of our programs and employment of our graduates. To everyone who has put their trust in us, I am sorry. The loss of accreditation in the School of Education is unacceptable. It is my mission to do everything within my power to help each and every one of our students succeed. I can’t change what happened, but I am committed to solving the problem so our students are confident in the high-quality education they receive at UAA.

Our first concern and highest priority is to address the needs of our students. UAA is working with the University of Alaska System and the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development (DEED) to come up with solutions, and DEED announced on Jan. 15 that spring and summer 2019 graduates will still be recommended for licensure by the Alaska State Board of Education.

We will continue these efforts and work to obtain approval for teacher licensure for all affected students, no matter when they are scheduled to complete their program.

We are also assisting UAA students who choose to complete their education degrees at the University of Alaska Fairbanks or University of Alaska Southeast, both of which have accredited education programs. We hope students will choose to stay at UAA, but we will do everything we can to ensure that transfers can occur, and that students are informed throughout the entire process.

The UA Board of Regents is planning to meet with students, the education faculty and the public on Feb. 12 to hear concerns and to make sure they are supported through this difficult situation.

While we focus on addressing the immediate needs of affected students, we are also taking the necessary steps to ensure Alaskans who choose to become teachers will have high quality programs available to them here at UAA.

As those following the issue know, UAA did not lose accreditation because of a failure with the quality of our programs in the School of Education, but because we failed to demonstrate how we used the proper data to show what our programs have achieved. The fact is that UAA teachers are among the very best in the state. The past two teachers of the year in Alaska are graduates of our programs. And as you may have seen in the news just last week, one of four finalists for teacher of the year for the entire nation is a UAA graduate.

To ensure our data collection, analysis and reporting meet the necessary standards going forward, all programs in the School of Education have adopted a nationally respected system called edTPA, a performance-based, subject-specific assessment and support system developed at the Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning and Equity.

To make sure this does not happen in other programs, UAA is investing to ensure that the additional data and reporting needs of programs with specialized accreditation are addressed. The first priority will be to focus on the education programs.

I know there’s a lot of work to be done. It’s one thing to restore confidence in UAA among those of you directly affected in the School of Education. But I’m also very conscious of a need to assure the rest of our students and our community that problems of this magnitude are not the norm.

The loss of the School of Education’s accreditation has no impact or bearing on the accreditation of any other programs at UAA.

UAA just successfully completed a rigorous, institutional-level accreditation process with the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. That process forces us to be conscious of the need to continuously improve. When and where we can identify potential problems — particularly those that would impede any student’s ability to achieve his or her educational aspirations — we are committed to resolving them.

As the chancellor of UAA, I will do what needs to be done to make sure the educational experience we are providing is worthy of the hard work, time, money and faith each and every student invests in UAA.

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