By STEPHEN BARTLETT
PLATTSBURGH — Plattsburgh State officially announced Thursday it has earned national accreditation for its teacher-education program.
The Teacher Education Accreditation Council informed the university this week that it granted the program accreditation for five years, the highest number of years the organization can provide to first-time applicants.
The accrediting body also found the university to be "above standard" in many areas.
"This is the single most significant event in the recent history of this college," Plattsburgh State President Dr. John Ettling said at a news conference at Angell College Center.
He pointed out that the college was formed 120 years ago to prepare teachers for the classroom.
Plattsburgh State learned in 1999 that it must earn national accreditation for the teacher-education program because the State Board of Regents was no longer handling the process. The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education turned down the university's first bid at accreditation in March 2005 after visiting the campus the previous year.
"Then-Provost Robert Golden went out and found someone to help him do this," Ettling said, acknowledging Plattsburgh State Dean of Education, Health and Human Services Dr. David Hill.
Hill had helped Keene State in New Hampshire earn national accreditation when he and Golden worked there before coming to Plattsburgh State.
Ettling, Golden and Hill, all of whom had been in their positions less than a year when the first accreditation visit occurred, knew there were some problems with the program. But they had not expected a "wholesale rejection."
After reviewing improvements needed in Plattsburgh State's program and charting a new path, university officials decided to continue the accreditation process through the Teacher Education Accreditation Council, which hadn't previously been an option.
The program was altered to include earlier field experience for undergraduates, more technology, improved teacher collaboration and assessment and an increased focus on critical thinking and problem solving.
Carrie Harvey-Zayles, principal of Oak Street Elementary School and a Plattsburgh State graduate, praised earlier field experience for students.
"They will be better prepared to be in the workforce to successfully educate our youth."
A year-long reorganization of the college's teacher-education program resulted in curricula unified by nine teaching themes using an inquiry-based approach to instruction, including:
Promoting content knowledge, learning environments and technology.
The knowledge of the art and science behind teaching, with an emphasis on assessment, critical thinking, problem solving and recursive learning.
The adaptation of professional skills, such as collaboration, modeling and honoring multiculturalism and diversity.
Faculty members also developed systems to monitor the effectiveness of their instruction, asking students to do the same in their own teaching.
They check to see if students feel like they are part of a learning community and explore the impact of early field placements, the amount of time faculty spends with the students at area schools and whether program graduates apply what they learned.
"This wasn't simply a matter of changing a couple courses," Ettling said. "It was a wholesale revolution in the way this college prepares teachers."
This past April, the Teacher Education Accreditation Council sent a team to audit Plattsburgh State's teacher-education programs, finding them to be "above standard" in candidate learning, faculty learning and capacity and commitment.
"This is a huge accomplishment for all of us," Hill said.
He stressed that the entire campus helped earn the national accreditation, in particular, faculty members who made up the Unit Advisory Group and the Inquiry Brief Writing Group.
"What more can anyone ask from an experience than have it result in wonderful lessons learned from working with talented people," Hill said.
"And we really wouldn't be accredited if we didn't have good graduates of our programs, and this is an acknowledgement of that."
E-mail Stephen Bartlett at: firstname.lastname@example.org