College of Education earns national accreditation
First of a nine-part series on GCU academics.
By Mike Kilen
GCU News Bureau
The college has received national accreditation for its academic rigor, innovation and dedication to the community.
COE was awarded a full 7-year accreditation by the Association for Advancing Quality in Educator Preparation (AAQEP) in May for both its initial teacher licensure and advanced-level reading and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages programs.
“The evidence presented showed that program completers are prepared to work effectively as professional educators and that they are able to adapt to different contexts and to grow professionally,” AAQEP reported in its rationale for accreditation. “Each program engages with stakeholders and partners to strengthen the P-20 education system locally and across the nation.”
Dr. Kimberly LaPrade, COE Dean, said it validates the work of “one of the largest teacher preparation providers in the county,” training more than 3,500 student teachers a year. “There are a lot of people that don’t have the depth of experience that our faculty has.”
For GCU students and graduates, it provides assurance that the quality of education in COE is “the best of the best,” she said, in the opinion of a third party after a deep level of self-study and peer review.
“It’s like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval,” she added. “They deserve that. We have amazing students and alumni. And the faculty and staff deserve it. They work really hard. Everyone can be really proud.”
Dr. Jim Rice, a former superintendent of the Alhambra School District and member of GCU’s Board of Trustees, said: “This accreditation will continue to draw educators to our College of Education. School district leaders will also recognize this accreditation and will highly recruit GCU students to teach in their schools.”
GCU was among the initial nine institutions that received accreditation under AAQEP, which formed in 2017.
LaPrade said that AAQEP is an organization that demands both quantitative and qualitative measures, which sets GCU apart.
“We are not only about inputs, we are all about outputs,” she said.
Dr. Mark LaCelle-Peterson, Chief Executive Officer and President of AAQEP, agreed.
“We see real consistency at GCU, an orientation to trying new things and owning their innovation,” he said. “First of all is the strength of the evidence for quality and, in particular, the strength of quality assurance – the attention to evidence, the relentless pursuit of getting things right and making things better.
“The other thing is maintaining that consistency over two modes of delivery. It is such a large institution both in person and spread across the country, so we were quite impressed with maintaining that quality across both of those service models.”
COE Associate Dean Dr. Debbie Rickey, who led the effort, said the accreditation showed GCU can maintain its high standards in both traditional and online education.
“You can have those standards and you can have that rigor with a national lens. We may look a bit different from a traditional-only university but not in meeting those standards,” Rickey said.
AAQEP went beyond only test scores and focused also on principles and relationships and context working in the community.
“Sometimes, the other approaches to accreditation have felt like a ‘gotcha’ and more of a checklist approach,” Rickey said. “With AAQEP we are able to show it’s not just systems but systems and people that work to create what we are doing in the College of Education. Our systems and people working together in everything we do is the very foundation of the College of Education.”
An AAQEP site visit at GCU was part of the rigorous process.
“They really wanted to know how it works online, not just on the ground,” said Dr. Lupita Hightower, Superintendent of Tolleson Elementary School District and a member of the GCU Board of Trustees. “What I was able to tell them, from the perspective of a former adjunct professor, the rigor is very high.
“It’s always been known as a teachers’ college, but this accreditation validates it. We all know it in Arizona, but this is a huge gold stamp nationally.”
Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.
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