ACICS: It’s Time to Pull the Plug

ACICS

Update: The National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) provides recommendations regarding accrediting agencies that monitor the academic quality of postsecondary institutions and educational programs for federal purposes. NACIQI will review ACICS at its virtual meeting on March 4.

The Pressure to Boost Enrollment

Within the highly competitive market of student admissions, college and university enrollment counselors point out all the reasons why students should choose their institution. Most claims are usually truthful. But sometimes enrollment counselors bend the truth a bit, leave out important details, or just flat out lie. This is done in an effort to meet monthly enrollment quotas intended to fill classrooms (virtual or in-person). More students means increased revenue, typically through federal financial aid. 

While we occasionally see this within traditional academia, the vast majority of unscrupulous enrollment practices take place in for-profit institutions that were created for one sole purpose: To make money. 

Unsuspecting students, many of whom may be the first in their family to ever go to college, put their trust in these enrollment counselors. They work two and three jobs to scrape up enough money for textbooks or childcare. Often encouraged by admissions or financial aid counselors, they borrow the maximum amount they can in federal student loans. These students work hard and dream of getting a good job when they graduate so they can make a better life for themselves and their loved ones. 

Far too often, we’ve seen those dreams shattered because those institutions failed to operate with integrity. Failed to tell the truth. Failed their students, and left them hanging with tens of thousands of dollars in debt with nothing to show for it. 

Even more tragically, those institutions were allowed to take advantage of their students by the very ones who were supposed to make sure they were doing the right thing: Accrediting bodies. 

 

Quality Assurance Watchdogs

Accrediting bodies were formed in the United States to serve as quality assurance watchdogs. Their role is to ensure that higher education institutions operate with integrity. For example, they should be financially stable. They should hire qualified faculty members. And, they should provide high-quality programs that help students get a job when they graduate. One such accrediting body is the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS). 

Founded in 1912, ACICS was first recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) back in 1956. It’s authorized to accredit private postsecondary institutions that offer certificates or diplomas. In addition, ACICS reviews postsecondary institutions offering associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degrees in programs designed to educate students for professional, technical, or occupational careers, including those that offer those programs via distance education.

 

Where ACICS Operates

ACICS has a worldwide presence. In addition to operating across the United States, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Island, the organization also accredits institutions in Antigua and Barbuda, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Peru, Spain, and Taiwan. 

 

Profile of Institutions and Programs Accredited by ACICS 

Currently, the body has an active membership of 85 institutions, with 80% of them being run by for-profit corporations. Several are operated by the same company but are accredited separately as different branches or campuses. 

Right now, ACICS has its stamp of approval on a total of 623 programs across the 85 institutions it has accredited. For those who complete those programs, we see the following breakdown:

 

Credential Level
Number of Programs Accredited by ACICS
Program Examples
Certificate of Completion or Diploma

166

  • Cardiovascular Technologist
  • Diagnostic Medical Sonography
  • Licensed Practical/Vocational Nurse
  • Security and Investigation
  • Personal Trainer
  • Professional Pilot
  • English as a Second Language
  • Patient Care Technician
  • Massage Therapy
  • Practical Nursing 
  • Internet Site Development
  • Ophthalmic Technology
Occupational Associate’s Degree

43

  • Information Technology
  • Paralegal
  • Medical Assistant
  • Biotechnology
  • Electrical Technology with Technical Drawing in Computers
  • Dental Assistant with Expanded Duties
  • Microbiology
  • Pharmacy Technician
  • Respiratory Therapy
  • Surgical Technology
Academic Associate’s Degree

128

  • Baking and Pastry Arts
  • Surgical Technician
  • Nursing
  • Diagnostic Medical Sonography
  • International Business
  • Pre-School Education
  • Mental Health and Human Services
  • Massage and Spa Operations
  • Funeral Service
  • Air Conditioning, Refrigeration, and Heating Technology
  • Muscle Activation Techniques
  • Solar-Sustainable Energy Specialist
  • Assistance Dog Education
Bachelor’s Degree

148

  • Patient Care Technician
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine
  • RN-BSN Bridge
  • Trust and Wealth Management
  • International Relations and Diplomacy
  • Digital Business
  • International Economics
  • Global Management
  • Japanese Studies
  • Fashion Imaging
  • Chinese Literature
  • Diagnostic Imaging
  • Diagnostic Cardiovascular Sonography
  • Muscle Activation Techniques
Master’s Degree

138

  • Big Data Analytics
  • Human-Canine Life Sciences
  • Aviation Science
  • Inter-American Defense & Security
  • Digital Master in Business Administration
  • Master in Internet Business
  • Global Finance
  • Chinese Literature
  • Curriculum and Instruction
  • Education
  • Nursing
  • Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
  • Nursing with Specialty in Critical Care

 

As part of its program review protocol, ACICS takes a close look at multiple metrics. When a program or institution doesn’t meet benchmark standards, it receives the equivalent of a warning. Subsequently, they are given a specified time to make the necessary improvements. In more serious instances, the organization sends institutions a formal Compliance Warning or Show Cause letter. 

 

Compliance Warnings

A Compliance Warning action is taken when the Council determines that an institution or campus is not in compliance with the Accreditation Criteria but is able to bring itself into compliance within the time frame specified by the Council. In 2020, ACICS issued Compliance Warnings to eight institutions. It’s already issued one Warning this year. 

Most of the reasons focus on Student Achievement or Quality Assurance. Frequently, warnings were issued for incomplete data. In some cases, institutions provided incomplete faculty information about qualifications. In other cases, there are low graduation rates or low employment placement rates after program completion. The ACICS benchmark for student retention and employment placement post-graduation is 60%. In some cases, placement rates are 54%, 17%, and even 0%. As a result, many students are finding it extremely difficult to get a job once they graduate. 

 

Show Cause Letters

ACICS sent Show Cause letters to five of its member institutions in 2020. A Show Cause letter formally lets institutional administrators know that the institution is very close to having their accreditation withdrawn; they are instructed to provide evidence or “show cause” as to why the institution should be allowed to continue its operations. Four of the five Show Cause letters focused on student achievement. In each case, student retention rates and employment placement rates were abysmal.

The last Show Cause letter revealed that ACICS had learned the institution had launched a Doctor of Business Administration program without receiving prior approval. Even worse, the program had already enrolled 23 students. If allowed to continue, those graduates would likely find a difficult time advancing their career with a doctorate from an unaccredited program. Or, if chose to transfer to another institution, it’s almost a guarantee that none of the courses completed from an unaccredited program would be accepted for transfer.  

 

Often Too Little Oversight, Too Late

As I wrote in The Dominoes That Didn’t Have to Fall: Vatterott College, the ECA, and Others Like Them in early 2019, ACICS has become the go-to accrediting body for institutions that want a seal of approval quickly. Most are for-profits. Many don’t want to do the work to go through a rigorous program review process. They know that they need to be accredited in order to boost enrollment and in many cases, receive federal student financial aid. Word travels quickly through a network of unscrupulous investors which accrediting bodies are the easiest way to get from A to B. 

In 2018, 37 ACICS-accredited institutions shut their doors. By 2019, it was 13 and in 2020, the number was four. Each of those now-defunct for-profit institutions operated multiple programs of study, with each having multiple students enrolled. The amount of money in federal financial aid sent to those institutions is staggering. Even worse, just think of how many thousands of students and their families have been devastated because ACICS failed to do their job as an accrediting body. 

It’s Time to Finally Pull the Plug on ACICS

It’s past time for the US Department of Education to pull the plug on ACICS. Given their track record over many years, it’s obvious the organization simply isn’t up to the task of ensuring program quality. Above all else, accrediting bodies are in place to protect students from unscrupulous companies that don’t think twice about taking their money.  Those predatory for-profits lead students on and then send them on their way with a certificate or degree that often isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. Or, they shutter their doors without notice, leaving unsuspecting students in a lurch with no idea what to do next. 

President Obama made the decision to derecognize and strip ACICS of its power back in 2016. At that time, the organization was the gatekeeper to $4.76 billion in 2015 federal aid payments to more than 245 career-oriented colleges. 

However, Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration refused to do the right thing by students. Instead, they chose to reinstate ACICS as a recognized accrediting body. As a result, ACICS continued to approve programs that couldn’t be accredited by another body. In one case, reporters discovered that one institution given the ACICS stamp of approval in 2017 wasn’t even actually a functioning university. In another case, there weren’t actually any faculty on staff. 

Nonetheless, it’s now up to the Biden administration to clean up the mess, once and for all. In a recent staff report, senior US Department of Education officials recommended terminating ACICS’ recognition as an accrediting body. Based on solicited third-party comments, those who care about higher education quality are elated. 

The Department of Education should shut down ACICS for good. In addition, it should take steps that ensure that this type of incompetence never happens again. 

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About the Author: Dr. Roberta Ross-Fisher has expertise in higher education quality assurance, educator preparation, and competency-based education. A former public school teacher and college administrator, Roberta is now an educational consultant specializing in the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). 

Twitter: @RRossFisher

Email: globaleducationalconsulting@gmail.com 

 

Top Graphic Credit:  Tim Gouw on Unsplash

A Golden Opportunity: Let’s Rethink Performance Evaluations (Segment 2)

Is your P-12 school committed to helping instructional staff continually improve their teaching skills? As a school leader, do you recognize that exceptional instruction leads to exceptional learning, but you’re not quite sure where to begin?

If so, please check out my 3-part video series entitled, A Golden Opportunity: Let’s Rethink Performance Evaluations.

  • Segment #1 provides an introduction to performance evaluations in the context of student and school success.
  • Segment #2 focuses on the need for ongoing evaluation and targeted support, as well as criteria you may consider when evaluating performance.
  • The final segment helps you to explore how you could design your own performance evaluation model that maintains your school’s individuality, and yet also ensures quality.

I’ve also created a supplemental resource page you can use as a handout to the series.

You can access Segment #2 below:

[wpvideo Uwj9T3eM]

Dr. Roberta Ross-Fisher is a national leader in quality assurance, educator preparation, and empowerment-based learning. She supports educational institutions and non-profit agencies in areas such as accreditation, competency-based education, and teacher/school leader prep programs design.  Roberta also writes about academic excellence and can be contacted for consultations, webinars, and on-site workshops through her site (www.robertarossfisher.com). 

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Countdown: Assessing Your Way to Success

We’re just a couple of days away from an all-day workshop I’m conducting on behalf of the Network for Strong Communities entitled, “Assessing Your Way to Success: How to Use Measurable Outcomes to Achieve Your Goals”.

The June 14th workshop is designed for non-profit organizations representing a variety of sectors (healthcare, social services, educational, faith-based, etc.) who are committed to tackling problems and meeting the needs of those they serve.

Designing new programs and initiatives is something all non-profits do—but it’s important to give those efforts every chance of success. This workshop will provide many tools that can help!

This will be a fast-paced, action-packed day with lots of hands-on activities and FUN! Please consider joining us as we tackle topics like:

  • •      The basics of designing effective programs/initiatives
  • •      Determining success through measurable outcomes
  • •      The role of high-quality assessments to accurately gauge success
  • •      Building a strong program evaluation model
  • •      Assessment basics
  • •      Putting all the tools to work
  • •      Making data-driven decisions to inform strategic planning
  • •      Individualized consultation time: Let’s get started building your new                                       program/initiative!

 

 Looking forward to seeing you there! If you live outside the St. Louis metro area, reach out to me and I can come to your location.

–rrf

 

About the Author

Dr. Roberta Ross-Fisher is a national leader in educator preparation, accreditation, online learning, and academic quality assurance. An accomplished presenter, writer, and educator, she currently supports higher education, P-12 schools, and non-profit agencies in areas such as competency-based education, new program design, gap analysis, quality assurance, program evaluation, leadership, outcomes-based assessment, and accreditation through her company, Global Educational Consulting, LLC. She also writes about academic excellence and can be contacted for consultations through her blog site (www.robertarossfisher.com). 

 

 

 

 

Uniqueness vs. Accreditation: Why Must We Choose?

In the most recent issue of the New England Journal of Higher Education, Mark LaCelle-Peterson introduces the educator preparation community to a new way of thinking about quality assurance and accreditation of programs. In the piece, LaCelle-Peterson challenges the notion that measuring the quality of an education program through a compliance lens really isn’t necessary—in fact, it can sometimes inhibit quality by forcing programs to demonstrate adherence to a rigid set of standards and criteria that may or may not be an appropriate fit for all programs given the diversity of missions, visions, populations served, and instructional delivery approaches. For example, what may be appropriate criteria for measuring the quality of a program that serves 18-22-year-old students on a residential suburban campus may be quite different from one that serves learners whose average age is 39 and who pursue their academic studies online within a competency-based educational model. Both prepare educators. Both are committed to quality. But when it comes to making judgments about those programs, one size just doesn’t seem to fit all—and what’s more, why should it? Why is it necessary to have a single set of standards and criteria that all programs must adhere to?

It seems to me that as a community of educators we figured out a long time ago that creating one lesson plan and teaching to students in the middle was simply not an effective approach—nor was it ethical, because that model failed to consider the needs of students who did not fit into a pre-determined mold.  Today we encourage our teacher candidates to not only acknowledge the differences in students, but to embrace that diversity, and to celebrate it—because we know that a diverse group of learners contributes to a dynamic and robust community—one that thrives because of its diversity, not in spite of it.

Quality assurance measures through an appropriate accreditation model can be instrumental to preparation programs’ success through data-driven decision making, continuous program review, and collaboration within the community. Program leaders should not have to put their uniqueness on a shelf in pursuit of accreditation.

–rrf

Dr. Roberta Ross-Fisher is a national leader in education transformation, teacher preparation, and academic quality assurance. An accomplished presenter and writer, she currently supports educational institutions and non-profit agencies in areas such as educational systems design, online learning experiences, competency-based education, and accreditation. Roberta also blogs about academic excellence and can be contacted for consultations, webinars, and on-site workshops through her site (www.robertarossfisher.com). 

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Is Being Accredited Really That Important When Selecting a College?

We all hear and read about the benefits of earning a college degree: We make more money over a lifetime; we get better jobs; we receive company-paid benefits; we tend to be happier and healthier overall. However, choosing the right college or university can be quite daunting, and yet it’s terribly important, because not all institutions are alike, and the quality can vary widely. While there are lots of things to consider such as cost, degree programs, scheduling, and the like, one thing many college students often overlook is whether or not the university is accredited.

There are many types of accreditation–you may likely hear terms such as regional accreditation, national accreditation, functional or programmatic accreditation, and sometimes even state accreditation. Each plays an important role in quality assurance for specific programs or an entire institution but here’s a strong recommendation:

Don’t ever take a single course from an institution that is not accredited. Never. Ever.

While no guarantee of perfection, accredited institutions have provided certain levels of assurance to respected bodies within academia that students will be taken care of. Non-accredited institutions have had no one looking over their shoulder, digging deep and looking in various academic or financial nooks and crannies; they can accept your money with absolutely no guarantee that the course or degree that you completed will be worth anything at all.

Plus, if you complete courses from an unaccredited institution, there is no guarantee that those courses will be accepted should you decide to transfer to another university later on. Even worse, if you go the distance and complete an entire degree from an institution that’s not accredited, you may find that many employers or graduate schools will not recognize that degree–in their eyes it will be like you don’t have a degree at all–but you’ll still have those student loans to pay back just the same.

Here is an entertaining yet informative video that clears up some of the confusion:

ASPA 2016 Explainer

You should be able to choose a college or university that fits your particular needs:

  • faith-based
  • public
  • private
  • traditional brick & mortar
  • online
  • non-profit
  • for-profit

Regardless of which you choose, make sure it’s a program that is accredited.

–rrf

 

Dr. Roberta Ross-Fisher is a national leader in educator preparation, accreditation, online learning, and academic quality assurance. An accomplished presenter, writer, and educator, she currently supports higher education and P-12 schools in areas such as competency-based education, teacher preparation, distance learning, and accreditation through her company, Global Educational Consulting, LLC. She can be reached at: globaleducationalconsulting@gmail.com

 

Transition Points & Gateways: Stop Gaps Universities Should Consider

Each higher education institution’s program of study, regardless of major, contains specific phases of progression that each student must successfully complete before being allowed to graduate. In other words, there is a planned, purposeful order to completing a program or earning a college degree—an individual does not just apply for admission and have complete autonomy over the courses taken, the sequence of coursework, when/where/if practica or internships are completed, and so on. The institution makes those decisions after carefully designing each given program of study. They decide things such as:

  • Admission and enrollment criteria
  • General education requirements
  • # of semester hours required for graduation
  • Minimum GPA required to pass each course
  • Clinical experiences, internships, practica
  • Exit examinations required for graduation (or state licensure, depending on the program)

Transition points are sometimes referred to as “gateways”—they are specific points at which a student passes from one stage in his or her program to the next. As long as a student meets the stated expectations, the journey continues and he or she moves ahead toward graduation. If the student fails to meet one or more expectations in a given stage, the institution implements a plan for remediation, additional support, or in some case, counseling out of the program.

I have created a Transition Points framework that may be useful to some educator preparation programs. Of course, Transition Points must be tailored to fit each unique program but could include gateways such as:

  • Transition Point I: Applicant to Pre-Candidate Status 
    • Admission to the program
  • Transition Point II: Pre-Candidate to Candidate Status
    • Completion of Block #1 Coursework & Preparation for Formative Field Experiences
  • Transition Point III: Candidate to Pre-Graduate Status
    • Completion of Block #2 Coursework & Formative Field Experiences 
  • Transition Point IV: Pre-Graduate to Graduate Status
    • Completion of Block #3 Coursework & Culminating Clinical Experiences
  • Transition Point V: Graduate to Program Completer Status
    • Pass Required Licensure/Certification Examination(s)

Do you see the progression? When detailed out, a complete Transitions Points or Gateway table should paint a portrait of a student’s journey from matriculation to program completion; the sequence should represent a logical flow with at least some detail relative to minimum expectations.

I hope this has been helpful to you. Need more ideas? Want to collaborate on a project? Feel free to reach out to me.

–rrf

 

Dr. Roberta Ross-Fisher is a national leader in educator preparation, accreditation, online learning, and academic quality assurance. An accomplished presenter, writer, and educator, she currently supports higher education and P-12 schools in areas such as competency-based education, teacher preparation, distance learning, and accreditation through her company, Global Educational Consulting, LLC. She can be reached at: www.robertarossfisher.com. 

Educator Prep: There’s a Better Way.

Numerous sources can point to a teacher shortage across the United States, with some areas having a much greater need than others. With some exceptions, Elementary and Social Studies teachers tend to be in greatest supply but in least demand, while the converse is true for Special Education, English Language Learning, Mathematics, and Science teachers. School districts typically have a much harder time filling teaching positions in urban districts, in Title I schools, and in remote rural areas. In many instances, a lack of experienced, qualified teachers in those areas forces districts to fill those classrooms with individuals who may be well-intentioned but lack sufficient training and cultural competence to be successful. Moreover, those districts often fail to provide adequate mentoring and support in the first two years of employment which results in new teachers feeling isolated and without tools to succeed. Consequently, we typically see a high turnover rate in those areas which has a negative impact on students and the local community at-large over time.

Various state departments of education have taken steps to address this problem. California has recently committed $25 million for scholarship money to help alleviate the teacher shortage by using a “grow your own” model. They are distributing this money to 25 school districts and county offices of education to help 5,000 support staff members earn their teaching credentials while continuing to work at their schools. While the idea has some merit, I see big gaps in the approach. Specifically, they are granting funds only to individuals who complete their teaching license requirements at one of the California State University campuses; this severely restricts the type of training these individuals will receive and it only supports the enrollment of those campuses. Moreover, EdSource reports 1,000 eligible employees can get stipends of $4,000 per year over the course of the five-year grant, which could cover all or most of the cost to enroll in those select institutions, depending on how many courses these employees take per semester. Acknowledging it could take up to five years doesn’t make a convincing case that these programs are innovative or cutting edge—in fact they are likely just serving as a feeder into their current programs. So, for continuing business as usual, these institutions are reaping the reward of 1,000 new enrollments and $25 million. The latest initiative proposed in California is to offer teachers who have taught at least 5 years in the state freedom from state income tax. While an interesting idea, I don’t see it encouraging sufficient numbers of individuals to enter or to remain in the teaching profession. Plus, it could have a negative impact on a state already short on cash.

The state of Nevada has attempted to alleviate the teacher shortage, most severe in the Clark County School District located in Las Vegas. School officials in that district, reportedly the third largest in the nation, face the daunting task each year of hiring approximately 2500 teachers. At the time of this writing, there are currently 672 openings for licensed teachers. The Nevada Department of Education approved an Alternative Route to Licensure (ARL) program designed to alleviate shortages across the state but it seems to be only a partial solution in its present form. What’s of equal concern is that once hired, districts struggle to retain teachers for a variety of reasons.

In addition to approaches that focus on state funding and providing paths to licensure through nontraditional means, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has recently begun looking at teacher preparation itself; staff have initiated statewide conversations amongst educators regarding how new teachers should be prepared. And of course, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) has established itself as a national leader on educator quality and preparation through research and rankings of educator preparation programs.

 So what’s the answer?

The solution to having an adequate supply of qualified, well-prepared teachers who will positively impact the lives, learning, and development of their students is not simplistic—it is complicated, and that’s why no one has solved it yet. However, I believe one answer lies in how teachers are prepared. While many educator prep programs do a fine job, many do not and new teachers are simply not ready to enter the classroom, hitting the ground running. They have absolutely no idea how to effectively manage a classroom, deal with an angry parent, meet the needs of EVERY learner in their class, and so on. There is an apparent disconnect between what is being taught in colleges of education and the reality of teaching in today’s classrooms. Is one reason because those responsible for preparing those future teachers have little to no current teaching experience themselves? Have they stepped foot in a P-12 classroom in the past five years? Have they cleaned up vomit all over desks and the floor? Have they done before and after school bus duty? Have they had a student arrested in their class? Have they had to bring comfort to a child who is homeless? I think that while credentialed education faculty are well-intentioned, knowledgeable, and experienced, their skills may not be what’s needed in today’s classrooms.

I have been developing some specific ideas regarding how to train new educators some of which challenge the current preparation model. I’m working on creating an educator preparation program that could work for new teachers as well as new educational leaders that has features unique to any other program I’ve reviewed. Some would call it an alternative program, but I really don’t like that word and would love to see it disassociated with education preparation. Want to know more? Interested in partnering with me on a project of immense importance that is built from the ground level up on academic excellence? Let me hear from you…

–rrf

 

Dr. Roberta Ross-Fisher is a national leader in educator preparation, accreditation, online learning, and academic quality assurance. An accomplished presenter, writer, and educator, she currently supports higher education and P-12 schools in areas such as competency-based education, teacher preparation, distance learning, and accreditation through her company, Global Educational Consulting, LLC. She can be reached at www.robertarossfisher.com 

 

 

CAEP Site Visit Logistics

Preparing for an accreditation site visit is always stressful for university faculty and staff, even under the best of circumstances. Depending on whether we’re talking about a regional accrediting body, a state compliance audit, or a discipline-specific accreditor, there are certain processes and procedures that must be followed. For the sake of brevity, this piece will focus on one discipline–that of teacher preparation–using the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) as the sample accrediting body.

There are some important topics to be covered during a pre-visit conference call between the site team lead, the education preparation provider (EPP), and state representatives. By the end of this call, all parties should be “on the same page” and should be clear regarding what to expect in the upcoming site visit. Here are the topics that are essential to cover:

  • Any general questions the EPP has regarding completion of the Addendum
  • Confirm Addendum submission date
  • Review and revise draft visit schedule
  • Travel Details
    • Confirm preferred airport
    • If arrival and departure times coincide, team prefers to pick up a rental car at the airport and provide their own transportation during the site visit.
    • Otherwise, EPP will need to make ground transportation arrangements.
  • Reminder per CAEP guidelines: No receptions, banquets, poster sessions, dinners with EPP representatives, etc.
  • School Visits
    • Not required, but generally requested by the team if there are concerns regarding clinical experiences. Typically limit of 2 (from different grade levels such as 1 Elem & 1 HS)
    • Should not require significant drive time
    • EPP should provide a guide (typically faculty) to drive and serve as host/hostess
    • Usually should take no more than 1 hour on-site at school
  • Work Room at Hotel and on Campus
    • Must be secure and private; lockable.
    • Only site team members and state representatives are to enter the work rooms.
    • Conference table large enough to accommodate all team members and state representatives
    • Printer, secure wifi, LCD or HDTV projector
    • Shredder
    • Basic office supplies (i.e., stapler, paper clips, post-its, note pads, pens, highlighters, etc.)
  • Food/Snacks
    • There should be healthy snacks and beverages (i.e., bottled water, coffee, soda) in the work room at the hotel and on campus.
    • The team will eat breakfast at the hotel each morning.
    • If at all possible, the team will want to remain on campus for lunch, with the ideal arrangement to have lunch catered either in the workroom or in an adjacent room.
    • The EPP should suggest a variety of restaurants within easy driving distance of the hotel for dinner each night.
  • Interviews
    • Generate interviewee list. Examples include:
      • Dean
      • Assessment Director
      • Field Experiences Coordinator
      • Full-Time Faculty
      • Key Adjunct Faculty
      • Current candidates representing multiple programs
      • Program completers representing multiple programs
      • Cooperating teachers from field experiences
      • Clinical supervisors
      • P-12 partners (i.e., superintendents, principals, teachers, etc.)
      • Other:
    • Interview Rooms
      • Depending on final schedule, 3 rooms may be needed simultaneously.
      • Should have a door for privacy
      • EPP representatives should not attend interviews with candidates, program completers, or cooperating teachers
      • EPP should prepare sign-in sheets for each interview.
      • A staff member should be responsible for get all participants to sign in and then leave the room.
      • All sign-in sheets should be sent to the site team lead.
    • Requests for Additional Information or Data
      • All requests should flow from and back to the site team lead.

There will be additional items to discuss but these are the most essential. Remember–advanced preparation is one key to a successful site visit. Do your homework and know what is required. Get organized. Appoint someone with experience to coordinate the event. Start well in advance. And if in doubt, hire a consultant. Earning accreditation is crucial to an institution’s overall success and should never be taken lightly.

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About the Author: Dr. Roberta Ross-Fisher has expertise in educator preparation, CAEP accreditation, and competency-based education. A former public school teacher and college administrator, Roberta is now an educational consultant and adjunct professor.

 

The Drive-Thru Approach to Teacher Preparation

The Drive-Thru Approach to Teacher Preparation

I read yet another article about national teacher shortages; this one was entitled Teacher Shortages Spur a Nationwide Hiring Scramble (Credentials Optional). As a result of their desperation to staff classrooms, school district officials are putting pressure on states to relax teacher licensure requirements. In some cases, this has led to the watering down of standards and expectations. Some are taking advantage of the current climate, smelling the sweet aroma of serious revenue by offering what is essentially a drive-thru teacher preparation program: The “customer” arrives at the window, attracted by the bright lights and yummy-looking food pics. Enrollment counselors take their order and send them on. Worker bees behind the scenes serve up a program that may be of questionable or untested quality and the customer is on their way in record time. They don’t know that their fries were cold or there was no straw until they are miles down the road. Programs know such a model is cheap to build and cheap to operate; it’s easy money and there are so many students rolling through the drive-thru lane that they can afford to have some unhappy customers and still turn a profit.

In the short term, school districts are happy because they have a less difficult time hiring teachers, and program completers are happy because they’ve gotten through their program at break-neck speed and haven’t had to “waste” their time on courses they perceive as useless. However, in the long term, a host of new cyclical problems are revealed, including:

  • Individuals are admitted to the programs who really shouldn’t be—they sometimes lack the academic preparation or the professional dispositions necessary for success in the classroom.
  • Program completers are often ill-prepared to enter the classroom; they require a great deal of on-site training by the school district.
  • Many new teachers quickly become disillusioned and leave the profession because they didn’t know how challenging teaching really can be. Some leave in the middle of a school year.
  • Students often suffer due to constant turnover and lack of consistency.
  • Test scores lag and fall behind state averages; impact outcomes tend to be dismal.

 

Not all for-profit alternative certification programs are of poor quality, but many are. While accrediting bodies have recently come under greater scrutiny for their standards and expectations, many of these programs fly under the radar and are not regionally accredited*, which is the foundational accreditation any legitimate institution of higher education should attain. Some are taking the easy path to accreditation through bodies that focus mostly on career schools** such as beauty schools, truck driving schools, at-home hypnosis training, etc. just to state on their program’s website that they are accredited. These programs use “sleight of hand” language with the lay public, saying they are “accreditation eligible” which in reality means nothing but it sounds very convincing to those who are not well versed in the lingo.  Make no mistake: The drive-thru teacher preparation model is very real, and it is having a very real impact on our P-12 schools. The question is: Are we going to accept it as the new normal, or are we finally going to draw a line in the sand and insist on academic excellence for our children?

Dr. Roberta Ross-Fisher is a national leader in quality assurance, educator preparation, and empowerment-based learning. She supports educational institutions in areas such as accreditation, institutional effectiveness, competency-based education, and virtual teaching & learning.  Roberta can be contacted for consultations, webinars, and on-site workshops through her site (www.robertarossfisher.com). 

 

*The regional accreditation bodies in the United States include: (1) Higher Learning Commission (HLC); (2) Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE); (3) New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC-CIHE) Commission on Institutions of Higher Education; (4) Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC); and (5) WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

**The Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) awards accreditation to degree-granting, high school, military, and post-secondary schools. A search of accredited post-secondary schools, which would apply to alternative teacher certification programs, includes the Hypnosis Motivation Institute, At-Home Professions, and the Modern Gun School, to name a few.