There are a number of important factors to consider when choosing a master's degree program, including whether you want to enroll in an online or on-campus program, the length of the program, cost, and accreditation.
Colleges and universities are not required to be accredited. Participation is voluntary, and accreditation can be regional or national. The standards are set by each accrediting body and not all accrediting bodies follow the same guidelines or are considered equally authoritative. The U.S. Department of Education says that the goal of accreditation is "… to ensure that education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality."
Why Accreditation Matters
There are risks to enrolling in a non-accredited college or university. Not only is it possible that the credits you earn may not transfer if you want to change schools or complete or pursue a new degree, but employers look at accreditation when considering job applicants. Those with degrees from accredited institutions are viewed more favorably. Degrees from non-accredited schools may not be considered valid or reliable and this may result in the rejection of a job candidate.
The CAEP and Teacher Education Accreditation
The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) was formed when the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC) combined to form a new, unified accrediting body.
According to CAEP, "Educator accreditation is a seal of approval that assures quality in educator preparation." Educator preparation programs must continually self-assess and analyze program efficacy using evidence-based methods. This paves the way for continuous improvement, which helps ensure that accredited programs produce successful educators.
CAEP partners with states to determine which program review options they use to "examine the content and efficacy of preparation in the different preparation fields for teachers, school leaders, school psychologists, reading specialists, librarians, and other school professionals."
Determining whether a program meets CAEP standards is a rigorous process involving multiple sources of information. The first is a self-study report which is a collection of evidence and the supporting narrative from the education provider. A formative review of the self-study report is then conducted by a team of trained peer reviewers. Following the review is an on-site visit of two to three days during which the review team seeks to verify data, examine pedagogical artifacts, and interview leaders, faculty, students, administrators and others. The Visitor Team then provides a written report to the provider and to the Accreditation Council.
CAEP grants accreditation for seven years if the provider meets all CAEP Standards and requirements. Areas for improvement may be identified, but as long as they are remedied by the time of the next accreditation visit, they do not block accreditation. Some accreditations are granted for two years with stipulations for providers with serious deficiencies. Probationary accreditation may be granted for two years when a provider does not meet one of the CAEP Standards. Accreditation may be revoked or denied if a provider does not meet two or more of the CAEP Standards.
With such rigorous processes for establishing standards, researching and granting accreditation, and ensuring the ongoing improvement and adherence to standards, it becomes obvious why institutions and programs with CAEP accreditation are highly respected.
Northern Kentucky University's College of Education is certified by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP).
Learn more about NKU's online degree programs in education.
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