School of Education - Accreditation Self-Study Report

Standard 2: Continuous Improvement

We have engaged in a number of significant improvements since our last visit.

  • Culture of Assessment - Prior to our last NCATE site visit in 2008, our feedback related to assessment data was based on a data-use format (Exhibit 2.4.a.10). Members of the Assessment and Accreditation Committee expressed concern that too few departments were finding time to systematically examine and discuss data, making it difficult to implement program improvements grounded in data. In an effort to set aside time to engage faculty and staff in conversations about data, program-level data retreats were held in Spring 2011. Attendance was lower than hoped and the format of the meetings themselves did not lead to any significant conversation or program revisions. A second attempt was made at engaging faculty in discussions about program-level data with a data retreat in Spring 2013. Again, the results were uninspiring. Several meetings were scheduled for conversations about data in the 2013-14 academic year, but were ultimately pre-empted by urgent conversations about program review requirements from the Minnesota Board of Teaching. Instead of holding data retreats, the focus for the 2013-14 academic year became attending to relationships between departments, and laying a foundation for the importance and strength of assessment processes. Our goal is to create a culture in which assessment is not seen as something we do because we “have to”, but rather, that is something we “want to” do because it helps us become better. We will organize another opportunity for programs to come together to review and discuss critical unit and program data in fall 2014. We will be inviting P-12 partners to join us in reviewing our strengths and areas in which improvements are sought. Together with our P-12 partners, we will determine priorities and action plans for addressing program gaps and ways in which to build upon program strengths.
  • Data Management System - Our internal system of storing candidate, program and unit data has become outdated and incapable of providing the real-time reports needed to truly promote a culture of assessment. Our old assessment system relied upon one office to disaggregate and disseminate all findings. Faculty and/or programs had to request data if they were going to engage in program evaluation activities at times that did not coincide with the set dissemination schedule. Knowing this was an area in which we needed to improve, the Assessment and Accreditation Committee began to explore a number of potential data management systems. In 2011, after visits to our campus and demonstrations from a number of potential vendors, the recommendation of the committee was that the education unit enter into a contract with Innovative Learning Assessment Technologies (ILAT) for their PASS-PORT data management system. This recommendation was carried out and our relationship with PASS-PORT began. The Assessment Director worked closely with PASS-PORT to create program transition points and unit surveys in the system. In 2012, the university decided a data management system was necessary for the entire campus, and began the process of selecting a vendor. Faculty, staff and administrators from all parts of campus were involved in this process, and in 2013 SCSU selected Tk20 as a campus-wide assessment and data management provider. The School of Education was faced with terminating the relatively new working agreement with ILAT PASS-PORT, and move to the new system. We have been working closely with Tk20 since that time to implement assessment in the education unit. We are excited about the potential Tk20 holds for unit and program assessment, with immediate access to data related to key assessments and candidate performance. We are still in the stages of building our system and aligning standards, but have operationalized many features, including field experiences, surveys, advising and edTPA portfolios. We were hoping to pilot the collection of key assessment data in Tk20 in Fall 2014, but have had to postpone implementation until Spring 2015 so there is a seamless interface between D2L Brightspace and Tk20. In Fall 2014 we will expand our collection of field experience data and bring our programs for other school professionals into the system. We are working with students in an instructional design course over the summer and into fall (2014) to help us develop and create resources to assist Tk20 users.
  • Common Metrics - St. Cloud State University has entered into a data sharing agreement with Hezel, Inc. to aggregate and disaggregate data resulting from the four common metric instruments employed by fourteen teacher preparation programs in a tri-state area (Exhibit 2.4.a.11). The Common Metrics instruments have been aligned with the Minnesota Standards of Effective Practice (Exhibit 2.4.a.12). Philip Piety’s 2013 book, “Assessing the Educational Data Movement” articulates some of the challenges the common metrics group has faced and overcome (Teachers College Press, pp. 56-57). Working across state lines to develop common instrumentation has been challenging, but the resulting data has been incredibly helpful in better understanding the strengths and limitations of our current programs. Perhaps more importantly, we are engaged in important conversations about assessment with our colleagues. We are able to share ideas and engage in joint problem-solving through this collaborative. Through our common metrics collaboration we have significantly improved our ability to track our graduates into their first year of teaching, we are improving our ability to collect data post-graduation and we have improved the data collection instruments utilized.
  • Monitoring student progress - In reviewing our data related to teacher licensure examination passing rates we have discovered the need not only for the additional support services mentioned above, but the need to better monitor candidate testing. A study was conducted in 2011 to determine predictors of success on Minnesota Teacher Licensure Exams (Exhibit 2.4.c.8). We have been better able to advise students with ACT scores below the optimum level, and we have implemented systems in which candidate test attempts are reviewed on a regular basis by our Student Relations Coordinator and the Office of Clinical Experiences.
  • Performance-Based Summative Assessment of Student Teaching - The Assessment and Accreditation committee has reviewed the reliability and validity studies completed in 2013 and has recommended a working group be convened in fall 2014 to revisit this instrument (Exhibit 2.4.c.2). It is generally felt by the committee that an instrument more aligned with current InTASC standards and the new areas of focus in our conceptual framework would be beneficial.
    • Teacher Preparation Initiative Assessment Working Group - This working group is charged with identifying current teacher preparation and P-12 assessment practices, studying best practices in teacher evaluation and learner outcomes, recommending methods to coordinate assessment and data collection P-16, and making recommendations about ways to improve assessment practices across the partnership. They have been meeting over the summer and will be making recommendations for improving assessment P-16, in Fall 2014. The Assessment Working Group facilitator also conducts a number of ad hoc studies for both TPI and the unit regarding specific research questions that arise. This research expertise has been an extremely valuable asset to our unit.
    • Teacher Education Unit - To enhance the communication and collaboration necessary to move our assessment agenda forward, we have focused on relationship building and information sharing between content and education faculty. Monthly unit conversations have focused on sharing information and facilitating broad discussions about our teacher preparation programs. With a focus on building a sense of community within teacher preparation, we have a tendency to overlook our programs for other school professionals, one of whom is no longer in the school of education. (School Counseling was moved from the School of Education to the School of Health and Human Services in the institutional reorganization of 2010-11). Our attention to building a cohesive teacher education unit has not been without a price. The task of preparing this self-study has brought to light the fact that attention now needs to be placed on school counseling, educational administration and our advanced teacher preparation programs as we widen our view of “unit” to include the preparation of all school-based professionals.
    • Student Relations Coordinator – As our institution reviewed structure and resources in the reorganization process, it was decided that smaller units, such as the School of Education, would no longer have Associate Dean’s. In order to put greater emphasis on our services to students, including managing the complaint process, a full-time Student Relations Coordinator position was created. The Student Relations Coordinator handles all student complaints and concerns in accordance with institutional policy and procedure (Exhibit 2.4.e.1). The Student Code of Conduct describes the behavioral expectations and disciplinary processes associated with conduct violations, including grade appeals and complaints against faculty (Exhibit 2.4.e.2; 2.4.e.3; 2.4.e.4).

Partnership with Career Services – As we explored ways in which to maintain better connections with our program completers, it became obvious that the most efficient way to reach them would be by partnering with Career Services. The Career Services office maintains contact with program completers from all parts of campus and has the resources and expertise to assist us in this endeavor. While the partnership is young, it has been formalized and has been extremely beneficial (Exhibit 2.4.d.3).