The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), the nation’s sole accrediting agency for preparing future educators, has awarded full accreditation to the health education, history and social studies programs within RIC’s Feinstein School of Education and Human Development (FSEHD).
FSEHD Interim Co-Deans Gerri August and Julie Horwitz were elated by the news.
“We’re extremely proud of our colleagues,’’ Horwitz said. “We’re proud of all the work that people don’t get to see, the background work. Our faculty has been working very hard on this accrediting process, which is always ongoing.’’
August added, “Accreditation is rigorous but we are totally committed to it, ensuring that all our RIC teacher candidates have exceptional outcomes.’’
To achieve accreditation, which is granted for a five- to seven-year period, each program had to meet the following CAEP standards: teacher candidate content and pedagogical knowledge; clinical partnerships and practice; teacher candidate quality, recruitment and selectivity; program impact; and provider quality, continuous improvement and capacity.
Additionally, the RIC education programs navigated through CAEP’s self-study process, which requires collecting extensive data and evidence to meet CAEP’s standards and hosting a site visit at which a CAEP visitor team verifies data and examines pedagogical materials, such as lesson plans, student work samples and videos.
Susan Clark, coordinator of RIC’s health education teacher preparation program and principal author of the program’s CAEP report, said meeting the accrediting standards was challenging yet rewarding work.
“The analysis and writing of the report took several months,’’ Clark said. “One of the challenges was balancing a best-practice teaching strategy of collaborative group work with deciphering individual (teacher) candidate performance. We needed to make sure individual candidates’ performance was measurable in order to use the data for analysis.’’
She said health education program teacher candidates are “prepared to be leaders in their profession. They are leaving this program competent in planning, implementing and assessing skills-based health education. Their students will experience a dynamic teacher whose classroom exemplifies best-teaching practices and who advocates for health education and the health of his or her students.’’
The nationally recognized program distinction, Clark adds, is an advantage to RIC teacher candidates in their job search.
“This distinction will place our teacher candidates at the top of any resume pile,’’ she said.
Whitney Blankenship, associate professor of educational studies and history at RIC, noted that the teacher candidates she trains are exceptionally well prepared to lead school classrooms. She called CAEP’s accreditation of secondary education in history and social studies a noteworthy stamp of approval.
“Having someone else look at our programs from the outside and monitor what we’re testing is really helpful,’’ Blankenship said. “I believe that when our teacher candidates go out into the world as educators, what they learn is closely aligned with the national standards. Content wise, they are phenomenally prepared.’’
She said she believes the CAEP accreditation can attract students to RIC who are considering careers as social studies or history teachers.
“This is something we can certainly tell people,’’ Blankenship said.
Clark concurred, noting that RIC’s health education program intends to highlight the CAEP distinction and to place a heightened focus on technology.
“We plan to implement educational technology programs – such as Blackboard, Chalk and Wire and Google Classroom – that will train our teacher candidates how to deliver health education infused with technology to their future students,’’ she said.
Horwitz concluded that the accreditation reinforces the message that RIC’s mission is to prepare the strongest teachers in the state and region.
“We want our teachers to be the best they can be,’’ Horwitz said. “Preparing great teachers is in the bloodline of what we do at Rhode Island College.’’