NCATE Accreditation

Continuous Improvement

4.2.b  Continuous Improvement. Summarize activities and changes based on data that have led to continuous improvement of candidate performance and program quality.

Discuss plans for sustaining and enhancing performance through continuous improvement as articulated in this standard. 

1) Design of diversity curriculum and experiences.

Since 2011, initial programs have chosen to focus on teaching diverse learners as an explicit part of program improvement efforts. For example, in the area of teaching English learners, data from PACT prompted programs to require that candidates address academic language demands and support in all lesson plans and their teaching. Furthermore, all initial credential programs revised lesson plan templates so that every lesson plan written by candidates would include language objectives and/or English Language Development Standards. In the focus area of teaching students with special needs, data suggested that candidates needed more preparation in teaching special needs candidates in inclusive classrooms. Resulting actions included courses co-taught by two faculty, one with special education expertise, and one with general education expertise. In 2013-2014, initial programs aligned prerequisites for teaching special learners, leveraging faculty expertise for all candidates.

In advanced programs, a significant Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) grant enabled the creation of the Rural Teacher Residency program, in which candidates earn a combined MA in Education and a teaching credential (Multiple Subject or Education Specialist). This program, which began its first cohort in 2010-2011, focuses on preparing teachers to work in high-need, rural schools. Its presence has infused the MA in Education pathway with courses and modules focused on rural education, resiliency, action research, and school success for underserved populations.

Future plans include aligning the unit’s diversity proficiencies with the university’s Diversity Action Plan. Together with the Chief Diversity Officer (a new university position), faculty in the unit will examine proficiencies, curriculum, field/clinical placements, and assessments for their alignment with the university’s Diversity Action Plan (I.5.g). The outcome will be a more clearly articulated and enacted commitment to preparing educators to work with diverse learners.

2) Assessment of dispositions toward diversity.  

Since our last accreditation, the unit has added opportunities for candidates at initial and advanced levels to reflection on their dispositions, including dispositions regarding teaching diverse learners. In initial programs, candidates reflect on dispositions regarding diversity at mid-program and at end of program. After each semester of student teaching, candidates discuss the development of their dispositions with university supervisors and mentors/cooperating teachers. At orientation for second student teaching placements, candidates in initial programs complete a survey reflecting on dispositions, and where in the program they have learned and applied these. In the MA in Education program, Educational Administration Pathway, candidates earning a Preliminary Administrative Credential reflect on their progress throughout the program using the Professional Development Planner, setting goals for growth as a school leader (4.4.j).

3) Hiring diverse faculty.

The unit has made several steps in an effort to hire diverse faculty.  First, the university strengthened the diversity statement that appears on vacancy announcements. It states “As a university that educates students of various ethnic and cultural backgrounds, we value a diverse faculty and staff. CSU Chico welcomes applicants who are knowledgeable about and interested in working within a cross-cultural learning environment.”  Second, numerous diversity outreach efforts are employed. Third, each candidate campus visitation schedule includes an interview with the Director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion to learn about diverse communities and support structures on and off campus. Fourth, the School of Education invited the diversity officer to work with the unit in analyzing publicity materials for to ensure that they reflect the unit’s commitment to hiring diverse faculty. To date, these efforts have not yet been entirely successful in securing faculty who represent diverse racial/ethnic groups, partly because of limited hiring opportunities in recent years.

To address the lack of diverse faculty, the School of Education has hired teachers-in- residence and visiting faculty. For example, in 2008-2009, a clinical practitioner was hired to teach in our Single Subject initial credential program. She came from a diverse background, taught in a highly diverse school, and she had extensive experience working with candidates from diverse ethnic and linguistic backgrounds. For 2013-1014, the SOE hired a visiting faculty member who is a first generation college graduate who specializes in studying the discipline gap for underrepresented populations, specifically Native American P-12 students. 

In spring of 2014, the School of Education discussed its priorities for future hires, including hiring individuals representing diverse ethnic and racial groups. Approaching the two searches to be conducted in 2014-2015, the School of Education will be taking advice from the University Diversity Officer in designing publicity materials to ensure that they reflect the unit’s commitment to hiring diverse faculty. In addition, the advertising budget will target organizations that represent diverse faculty.

4) Valuing diversity in teaching evaluations.

Since our last accreditation, an effort has been made to value work and experience with diverse populations in the retention, tenure and promotion process. In the School of Education Personnel Policies and Procedures, faculty submit evidence of their performance around SOE Teaching Standard 4, element a:  “Model the professional dispositions he/she seeks to inspire in students (e.g., curiosity, honesty, fairness, respect for diversity, and appreciation of cultural differences)” (4.4.g.1, p. 14). In addition, a new item on the School of Education’s Student Evaluation of Teaching (SET), reads “The instructor prepares students to work with diverse populations.” Candidates evaluate whether or not the instructor is preparing them to work in a diverse setting, and these results become part of the file that is used for retention, tenure and promotion. (4.4.g.1, p. 36) This has led to an increased awareness among faculty of the importance of preparing candidates to work with diverse populations as a component of every course. Future plans include working with other departments to refine SET questions across the unit so that evaluations reflect the unit’s commitment to diversity.

5) Recruiting diverse candidates.

Demographic data indicated that the diversity of candidates in the unit’s programs were similar to the geographical area, but are not as racially/ethnically diverse as the student population at the university. In an effort to recruit more diverse candidates, grant funding was awarded to faculty to focus on recruiting and supporting candidates from diverse groups (4.4.h.2). One grant, NorCAL PRIE (The Northeastern California Preparation and Retention of Indian Educators) has led to an uptick in the number of candidates representing the Native American population. In 2013-2014, the percentage of candidates identifying as American Indian was higher in the EPP Unit (1.57%) than in the university (.7%) or in the geographic region (1.4%).  These numbers are expected to continue to grow as the grant continues to support Native Americans in becoming part of the teaching profession. 

While the unit has had some success with recruiting students from diverse backgrounds, more can be done in this area. Plans include broader participation at more university-wide recruitment opportunities, such as “Choose Chico”, with the goal of further diversifying the teacher pipeline.  New brochures designed to attract incoming freshman into education programs have been developed. In addition to recruiting candidates, the unit has made efforts to improve the success of candidates from underrepresented populations. For example, through the PRIE Grant, we are expanding support services for candidates who are first generation college students, who need ongoing advisement and financial support. These efforts should lead to greater numbers of candidates from underrepresented populations in education-related professions. 

6) Diverse placements.

Since the last accreditation visit, there have been many efforts to increase the diversity of candidate placements. The RTR program has taken candidates to visit school sites purposefully chosen because data indicate high student success in highly diverse settings. The MA in Education, Educational Administration Pathway has embedded in its program visits and observations by candidates in schools other than the one at which they are placed.  In the Communication Studies and Disorders Program (CMSD) candidates use a web-based data-management system to electronically record their clinical contact hours and hours working with diverse populations. In the future, these successful practices piloted by programs in the unit will be expanded unit-wide. Additionally, while the Candidate Placement Demographics Chart (4.4.f.1) is useful to identify diversity of schools and districts, the unit plans to collect diversity data at a classroom level. Classroom-level data will allow placement directors and coordinators to be more precise about placing candidates in diverse settings.

As we continue to increase the diversity of candidate placements, we will also support faculty and supervisors with professional development focused on the diverse strengths and needs of students. In January 2014, field supervisors attended a workshop (led by unit faculty from the Bilingual Program) to learn about the new California English Language Development Standards (4.4.m). In small, interdisciplinary groups, supervisors created ways to use those standards to structure feedback and scaffolding for teaching credential candidates in the field. Future professional development will focus on providing faculty with the latest evidence-based practices so that they can serve most effectively as mentors for candidates teaching in diverse settings.