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posted on 11/9/05
SJC Education Department Receives Highest Rating Achievable
Posted: November 9, 2005.
Saint Joseph's College recently hosted the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education from October 22-26. An individual, departmental accreditation agency that visits qualifying institutions on a nine-year basis, NCATE awarded SJC with an "unconditional" accreditation, the highest rating an institution can achieve.
"Our visit with NCATE was very successful," said Education Department Chair Jennifer Barce, "and we met all six of the standards." The rating criteria employed by NCATE are candidate's knowledge, skills, and dispositions; assessment system and unit evaluation; field experiences and clinical practice; diversity; faculty qualifications, performance, and development; and unit governance and resources. "Last year, only one third of the visited schools were given an 'unconditional' accreditation," Barce said.
NCATE has moved to a performance and standards based system since the last visit in 1999. In order to meet the new standards and correct the weaknesses pointed out during the 1999 NCATE visit, the Education Department implemented a new program consisting of more hands-on learning, more classroom experience, and more evaluations. "The first set of graduates from our 'new program' graduated in 2005, and we're already getting feedback from them about their experiences in the program, allowing us to refine and expand even more," she said.
While on campus, the representatives from NCATE sat in on class discussions, interviewed students and faculty, and enjoyed meals and downtime with students. "They were enchanted by the Core Program," Barce began, "and were impressed that we offered such a comprehensive liberal arts program to our future teachers. They also commended our faculty involvement and recognized the benefits of our dual-action system, such as the experience students gain from having both their Education professors and subject concentration professors study their portfolios."
Aside from being impressed with SJC's Education Department as a whole, the representatives from NCATE were also struck by the exhibit room the Education faculty created for their use. "One requirement of NCATE visits is to set up an exhibit room, making all of our files and other information easily accessible," Barce explained. Included in the exhibit were various forms of aggregated data, including field experience ratings, alumni program ratings, student course evaluations, student work samples, materials and requirements dealing with the Core Program, and education course requirements. "We wanted to showcase how unique SJC is," Barce said, "and really illustrate how we believe that all forms of learning are interrelated." The Education Department's hard work paid off, as the NCATE representatives were so impressed that they recommended other schools to visit SJC's exhibit room for tips on how to create their own. So far Purdue University North Central (Westville, Indiana) and Hanover College (Hanover, Indiana), both preparing for their first visits from NCATE, have toured SJC's exhibit room.
Barce believes the NCATE visit was a two-fold benefit, advantageous both to Education professors and Education students. "It was helpful for the professors to sit down and analyze the effectiveness of our new program and determine exactly how it fits in with the rest of SJC," Barce said. "It was great that the students got to see, first-hand, that the learning process never stops and a program (as well as individuals) never stops growing. We can always improve ourselves, and that's something that every potential teacher needs to recognize."
Saint Joseph's College, named a "character-building college" by the Templeton Foundation and a "best Midwestern college" by the Princeton Review, is a four-year, Catholic liberal arts college offering 74 major, minor, and pre-professional programs. Founded and sponsored by the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, SJC is located in Rensselaer, Indiana, approximately 90 minutes from both Chicago and Indianapolis, on a park-like campus of 180 acres and has an enrollment of approximately 1,000 students.