BROWNSVILLE, TX — The College of Education at The University of Texas at Brownsville is nearing the end of what will be a five-year quest to reach accreditation by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), the highest accreditation available in the United States for a university’s school of education.
“The process of accreditation has been a long and arduous journey for our faculty, and although we are close, it is not over yet,” said Dr. Miguel Ángel Escotet, Dean of the College of Education. “Among many benefits, this important achievement will give national recognition to the excellence of UTB’s teacher education programs.”
To date, 19 of the 21 programs of the College of Education have received full national recognition by their respective Specialized Professional Associations (SPA) – a critical juncture in the entire process.
“National recognition by specializing organizations is what determines the gold standard in teacher education,” said Dr. Laura Jewett, Assistant Professor in the Department of Teaching, Learning and Innovation. “Program review is the cornerstone of NCATE accreditation.”
The NCATE accreditation process includes a review of each program by the governing body for that discipline. For example, the Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies (EC-6th grades) Bilingual Generalist is examined by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). The English Language Arts degree for both grades 4-8 and 8-12 is governed by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).
In the field of Special Education, UTB offers four degrees, each reviewed by the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). These are the Bachelor of Arts in Special Education for EC-12 and a Master’s of Special Education in three areas – Advanced Special Education, Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and Educational Diagnostician.
The next step in the accreditation process involves a visit to the UTB campus by NCATE representatives, April 6-9. The representatives will make assessments that are best done in person, such as impromptu interviews with students in the College of Education. The group will also visit Cameron County public schools to evaluate processes in the student teaching program.
“We have been patient during this long and rigorous process,” said Dr. Olivia Rivas, Professor in the Department of Educational Psychology and Leadership. “It took almost two years for the College of Education to work through the preplanning phase in order to even become an official candidate to apply for accreditation.”
Once the official candidacy began three years ago, each individual program, or degree, within the college has undergone a rigorous internal review. Every faculty member in the College of Education has been on two or more committees or working groups. Each team has had to meet various standards after which the program was reviewed externally by the respective SPAs.
“We learned a lot about ourselves in the process,” Rivas said. “We are often so busy with our classes and our students that we frequently work in isolation, and this process fostered a more integrative working environment. We found a lot of common ground; we were all behind this common goal.”
After their April visit, the representatives will make their recommendation to the NCATE Board of Examiners. The process should be complete by the fall, at which time the UTB College of Education will join the 15 others in the state of Texas – and the only university south of Houston and San Antonio – with this coveted accreditation.