For nearly 50 years, the Union College education program has sought the highest standard of teaching excellence through accreditation from the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, or NCATE. Last school year, NCATE renewed Union’s accreditation, giving the education program a top score.
“We are very excited,” said Dr. Joe Allison, former chair of the Division of Human Development and now education superintendent for the Iowa-Missouri Conference. “Union received a perfect result, which only occurs in ten percent of colleges or universities each year.” Allison served as the division chair from 2002 to 2010 and through two NCATE accreditation visits.
“The distinction we received acknowledges that Union College provides quality education to nurture future educators to make a difference in the lives of young people,” said Dr. Denise White, newly appointed chair of the Division of Human Development. “We have a great team who worked hard to prepare for this and I am honored to join their ranks.”
Recognized as a certifying agency for teacher education programs by both the U.S. Department of Education and the state of Nebraska, NCATE accredits nearly 800 schools in the United States. Accreditation is a rigorous process, and only four Adventist teacher education programs have achieved NCATE standards.
“In today’s world where quality teacher preparation is a major concern in the nation, to graduate from a nationally accredited teacher preparation program means more than simply taking professional courses toward a teacher certification,” said Y. J. Moses, professor of education. “It means getting a wide variety of field experiences beginning freshmen year and culminating with a semester-long student teaching assignment under the guidance of qualified cooperating teachers. Without the NCATE accreditation, we will not be able to publicly claim this accomplishment.”
Many of those teaching experiences are made possible by George Stone Elementary, Union College’s unique on-campus lab school, which provides education students many opportunities to teach and observe in a small, multi-grade environment starting their freshmen year (see story).
“No other school in our system has such a valuable tool,” Allison explained. “Adventist schools from across the country and internationally seek to hire our graduates because they are well prepared to teach in both multi-grade and single grade classrooms.”
Because many states align teacher licensure requirements with the high standards set by NCATE, Union graduates find it easier obtain a license in most states. “Union’s NCATE accreditation only solidified in my mind the fact that I would receive the best education possible and become the best teacher I can be,” said Elisa Wright, a junior elementary education major from Ohio. “NCATE is a national accreditation, which means that I my education will prepare me to work in any teaching environment.”
To be accredited, an institution must meet the council’s six standards, most of which are focused on the performance of the teacher candidates, both in the classroom and on paper.
Extensive documentation by students, faculty and administrators identify areas of strength and weakness and help education professors continually improve the program. “Without the data and documentation coming from students we could not have done it,” said Moses. Always an ongoing process, collecting data for the next NCATE visit in 2017 has already begun.
Union College is also fully accredited by other accrediting agencies, both in subject areas and as a whole: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools; Accrediting Association of Seventh-day Adventist Schools, Colleges, and Universities, Inc.; North America Department of Education; and Mid-America Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventist Department of Education. Because the state’s requirements are based on NCATE standards, Union is also fully accredited by the Nebraska Department of Education.