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Belhaven University Earns National Accreditation for Educator Preparation Programs

A teacher showing a map of the United States to young children
Emily Moore, a 2020 graduate of Belhaven’s School of Education, works with students on phonemic awareness in the university’s demonstration classroom. Belhaven’s educator preparation programs recently earned CAEP accreditation. Photo by David Sprayberry

Belhaven University’s School of Education has earned accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, raising the program’s esteem to prospective teachers. The CAEP Board of Directors approved the recognition at their semi-annual meeting in October. This marks the first time the university’s School of Education has earned national recognition from a specialized accreditation association.

“Being recognized by CAEP has been a big achievement for us,” School of Education Dean David Hand told the Mississippi Free Press on Nov. 29. “As many years as we’ve been in this state, we needed to have national accreditation.”

CAEP was fully implemented in 2016 replacing the previous teacher-education preparation program accreditation standards. It is a nonprofit and nongovernmental professional accreditor that reviews departments, schools and colleges that prepare educators. CAEP accreditation means that a program “has demonstrated that it meets standards set by organizations representing the academic community, professionals, and other stakeholders.”

A teacher oversees young children playing with toys
Teacher candidates like 2021 graduate Amy Wyatt, shown here, receive instruction and training based on CAEP’s seven key standards including content and pedagogical knowledge, clinical partnerships, candidate recruitment, program impact and quality assurance. The program also places a strong emphasis on equity and diversity. Photo by David Sprayberry

“They’re very rigorous standards,” Hand said. “There are seven standards, five of which are the key standards that we are involved with in our program.”

In 2020, the Mississippi Department of Education partnered with CAEP to evaluate and approve the state’s educator-preparation programs. Programs must meet seven standards for accreditation including content and pedagogical knowledge, clinical partnerships, candidate recruitment, program impact and quality assurance. The program also places a strong emphasis on equity and diversity.

“The state Department of Education required all the teacher-preparation programs from all the universities here in this state to go to CAEP accreditation beginning probably five or six years ago,” Hand said. “So we all had to come on board and now are moving towards accreditation.”

The Belhaven School of Education offers a bachelor’s degree in teacher education, a Master of Arts in teaching, a master’s degree in education, an education specialist degree, and a Doctor of Education in educational leadership. The process took about five years to complete and included data and curriculum submissions and virtual interviews with students and faculty. Belhaven University received a recommendation for full accreditation for all its teacher an administration preparation programs with no areas of improvement required.

Belhaven University’s press release said “the CAEP reviewers recognized the positive partnerships and relationships that Belhaven University has cultivated with school administrators and mentor teachers hosting candidates for field and clinical internships. CAEP also noted the strong connection the School of Education had with teachers, administrators, districts and other stakeholders.”

Hand said that as CAEP becomes more well-known around the country, educators and superintendents will have more confidence that graduates from CAEP-accredited programs know the pedagogy, the content and are able to provide instruction.

A teacher reads a book to young children seated around her
CAEP accreditation helps ensure prospective teachers such as Madison Berg, shown here, have been instructed in accordance with rigorous national standards. Photo by David Sprayberry

Belhaven senior teacher candidate Caylee Bruce told the Mississippi Free Press that she now has an advantage as she begins seeking employment.

“I believe that CAEP accreditation sets us apart since it’s a prestigious award for Belhaven University,” Bruce said. “But also I think that as I’m going to interviews, talking to principals (and) administrations, (the accreditation) it is something that would set me apart from other teacher candidates that will be applying for positions that may not even be familiar with this accreditation.”

Bruce, who completed her education clinical at Brandon High School during the fall semester, feels prepared for the classroom next year.

“I think being in this education program, I have learned what being a teacher entails,” Bruce said. “Being on the other side of what it means to prepare lesson plans, to effectively manage a classroom—I keep saying that because it is crucial—and to provide instruction that tailors to the students’ needs. That is something I’ve learned being in the Belhaven teacher-education preparation program.”

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