About 50 educators from Fort Hays State University burst into applause today when university President Edward H. Hammond informed them that an on-site accreditation team had "comments" on only a couple of the more than 50 elements of a review of six accreditation standards.
In the jargon of teacher education, a "comment" is an area where improvement is possible. FHSU's College of Education and Technology has been fully accredited but on probation since 2002.
" You guys knocked 'em out," Hammond said to cheers. "It was as close to a home run as possible."
Hammond was speaking at a meeting the College of Education and Technology called to inform university faculty and administrators of the team's comments at the exit interview earlier today. It was the final meeting of the team's five-day visit to FHSU.
" We can't say anything official," said Hammond later, "but we can say that the NCATE (pronounced EN-kate) on-site review team told us that its report will carry with it the evidence and the results that we met standards one through six and that there are no comments on five of them. Of 50 some-odd sub-elements that they reviewed, there were only two that they commented on."
The on-site visitation team is known as the Board of Examiners. It is made up of volunteers -- teachers, professors and administrators -- who represent NCATE and the Kansas State Department of Education.
" It's kind of a long, drawn out process at this point," said Dr. Debbie Mercer, assistant dean of professional services and accreditation coordinator, explaining the process later. "We'll get a written draft report back in two to four weeks, check for factual errors, send it back, then we'll have a final copy and we can respond to anything that's not correct at that point."
When the report is finalized, it will be sent simultaneously to two places. NCATE will forward it to the
national Unit Accreditation Board (UAB) and the Department of Education will send it to the Education Review Committee (ERC).
It is those agencies, the UAB and the ERC, that actually determine accreditation.
Still, the mood at the meeting was joyous and Hammond praised the faculty, administrators and students who have worked so hard on gaining unconditional accreditation for the college for the next seven years.
" It is a great day for the College of Education and Technology," said Hammond. "You had the most positive NCATE visit in the history of the university. I think that our students should be proud of you and you should be proud of yourselves."
The six standards of evaluation are candidate (student) knowledge, skills and dispositions; program assessment and unit evaluation; field experiences and clinical practice; diversity; faculty performance and development; and unit governance and resources.
From comments and discussions with the site team during its visit, the two "comments" are apparently under the diversity standard, relating to the desire for a more diverse faculty and student body.
" The success of this college is your success," Dr. Ed Mills, dean of the college, told the audience. "You brought it home. You did it, and I watched you do it from the moment I got here. You've just done an outstanding job. I just can't compliment you enough. You're really something special and I'm proud to work with you."