“A lot of people don’t realize it but we’re in rarefied air right now,” said associate professor of education Dr. Doug Smith. “I mean, this is a mic drop moment for the education department. From this point, the sky’s the limit because we are well esteemed and viewed to be that good.”
In addition to freeing the department to be more innovative and entrepreneurial, Smith said, the national accreditation also benefits PC graduates who plan to teach outside of South Carolina. Most states, several territories, and a few countries accept new teachers who come from CAEP-accredited programs, for example.
In terms of recruiting students to become future teachers, department chair Dr. Patti Jones said CAEP’s opinion of PC should hold a great deal of weight.
“For students, it means PC has a very strong education department that is nationally accredited with no areas of weakness,” she said.
The major hurdle most schools find hardest to clear is data collection, which makes or breaks a program’s ability to demonstrate compliance with the standards, Jones said. Fortunately for PC, Smith developed a program called Learning Curve Achievement System that streamlined data entry, compilation, and analysis.
Smith said the program allows the department to work in an environment where assessment is ongoing and constant instead of driven only by a report.
“We are actually purposely and intentionally gathering data from key assessments the entire time, instead of panicking at the end of a six-year cycle to produce a report,” he said. “The hard part is not writing the report, though. The hard part is developing the culture – and that’s what we have here at PC.”
CAEP looks at a variety of measures in each department, such as how well the professors are teaching, how well they know their content, and how well they prepare their students for the classroom. But they also look at how well the department partners with other institutions and what impact it has in its surrounding community.
In its report to the college, CAEP evaluators said PC’s education program should be the envy of many schools in South Carolina.
“One of the strongest things that the evaluation team talked about in our visit was the strength of our relationships with all of our stakeholders,” Smith said. “That includes the school districts, the technical colleges, the city, and surrounding cities like Laurens and Newberry. We are highly esteemed by those folks, as well.”
National accreditation speaks to the strength of PC’s education department. Jones thanked Smith and their colleagues in the department, Dr. Julia Wilkins and Dr. Tammy Graham, for their contributions in and out of the classroom.
“We worked hard as a team,” Jones said.
PC provost Dr. Kerry Pannell noted the hard work and how it will pay off.
“It’s an impressive achievement,” she said. “All their hard work and the excellent assessment of their program has really paid off. And it is so beneficial for PC students to have such a strong reputation now and in the future.”