From the moment I learned that the programs for initial licensure within the University of Alaska Anchorage’s School of Education did not meet accreditation requirements, I have been focused on what we need to do to improve and reapply for full accreditation by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. UAA can reapply for accreditation in January 2020, and we believe that we will be ready.
Something important for our community to understand is the possibility that UAA — the State’s largest teacher preparation program — may not be allowed to apply for reaccreditation.
I have made my case to President Jim Johnsen to keep a robust school of education available at UAA but ultimately, the decision is for him and the University of Alaska Board of Regents to make, not me.
I will support their choice, but it is my hope that they will give UAA the chance to seek reaccreditation for the future teachers of Alaska. While we await their decision, UAA continues to work hard to make sure that if they choose to allow UAA to reapply, we will be ready.
There are so many reasons that I am committed to seeing this through.
UAA’s School of Education graduates an average of 99 new teachers each year, a greater number than any other university in the state. UAA is the only university in the state offering an early childhood education program. It’s also the only university in the state that offers advanced programs like special education, early childhood special education, speech pathology and education leadership — all skills that are critically needed in Alaska.
Prior to this accreditation news, we had more than 500 students in the pipeline to become educators. With more than 54,000 alumni overall and 30,000 of those alumni living and working in the Anchorage area, it is safe to assume that most of our graduates stay to live and work in Alaska.
The Anchorage School District is home to one of our largest alumni populations and nearly 25 percent of the BP Teachers of Excellence since 2010 are products of UAA’s School of Education. The fact is that UAA produces award-winning teachers. Two UAA School of Education alumni have been named Alaska Teachers of the Year and currently, UAA alumna Daniella Riha is among four finalists for National Teacher of the Year. Another alumna Valerie Baalerud was awarded the prestigious Milken Educator of the Year in 2018.
President Johnsen has stated repeatedly that the University of Alaska has a goal that 90 percent of Alaska’s teachers will be UA graduates by 2025. UAA can support that goal and will contribute to the University reaching it. We are ready to take this challenge on and I am personally committed to helping the University of Alaska System reach this goal that supports a critical need in the State of Alaska.
We have learned a lot from this experience. We’ve learned that transparency and communication are essential. We have also learned that our partnership with Alaska’s Department of Education and Early Development (DEED) is critical. We have also been reminded that UAA must demonstrate accountability every day. We can and we will.
I will close by reiterating how thankful we are to DEED for providing a path to licensure for our spring and summer graduates and for including language in the motion they approved that it considers these graduates to have graduated from an approved program. This is key to our moving forward. We look forward to continuing our partnership with DEED to provide the education that students need to become licensed teachers for the state of Alaska.
• Cathy Sandeen is the chancellor of the University of Alaska Anchorage. My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.