Heads up to all educator preparation programs: There’s a new sheriff coming to town. The Association for Advancing Quality in Educator Preparation (AAQEP) launched its website in September with a team of staff members and professional volunteers who have been hard at work finalizing a framework, procedures, and a process by which the quality of educator prep programs (EPPs) with the goal of becoming nationally accredited would be reviewed against a set of professional standards. If this sounds strikingly similar to the body that already serves in this capacity, the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), that’s because it is. CAEP was birthed as the result of a consolidation between the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC); it became fully operational as the nation’s sole accrediting body for educator preparation providers in mid-2013.
Similar to the CAEP model, AAQEP plans to partner with state departments of education for the purpose of streamlining and codifying expectations and indicators of program quality. In fact, the state of Hawaii has already paved the way for AAQEP to pilot their new model with more likely to follow. The body plans to move quickly in order to begin program reviews in 2018.
There are several reasons why a competing accreditor is appealing to many educator preparation programs, including:
Programs want options for greater individualization. Not all schools of education are created alike, and while they strive to attain the same goal of preparing teacher and school leader candidates, they enjoy a variety of missions, visions, program designs, and delivery systems. An accreditation model should not simply allow a diverse set of programs—it should embrace it.
Compliance vs. quality assurance. While CAEP initially attempted to focus more on output rather than input, it still seems to have a compliance flavor in its program review design. AAQEP, on the other hand, seems to be striving to develop a model that focuses more on quality assurance and continuous improvement through programs’ internal inquiry, reflection, and data review.
There’s a risk in having only one body to judge the quality of all programs. Having a monopoly is never a good idea, regardless of the enterprise. Competition ultimately helps all stakeholders to reach higher. Professional educators and program reviewers should all have a seat at the table making bilateral decisions. Communication should be regular, ongoing, and two-way. Mutual respect should be evident at all times.
Will another national accrediting body be accepted in our schools of education? Will some want to be accredited only by one, or will they choose to be accredited by both CAEP and AAQEP? That remains to be seen. However, if the addition of such a body creates a space for freedom of choice and mission-specific program design while ensuring academic excellence, how can that be a bad thing?
Dr. Roberta Ross-Fisher is a national leader in educator preparation, accreditation and academic quality assurance. She currently supports higher education and P-12 schools in areas such as competency-based education, teacher licensure, distance learning, and accreditation through her company, Global Educational Consulting, LLC.