A national leader in accreditation

Jo Olsen, dean of the School of Education

Jo Olsen, dean of the School of Education

By Jana Hollingsworth, Duluth News Tribune

The College of St. Scholastica's School of Education is one of the first in the nation accredited under new standards for teacher preparation programs.

The school volunteered to be a pilot program for the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, which is the new body formed after two accrediting bodies, the Teacher Education Accreditation Council and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, came together.

Minnesota doesn't require accreditation, but in 2007, St. Scholastica decided to apply for it and received it, said Jo Olsen, dean of St. Scholastica's School of Education.

"It really does serve to help you improve the program. It puts it under a microscope," she said, and the strengthening done from that process led the school to volunteer for the pilot program when it was time to reapply.

The label helps students find teaching jobs, she said, because employers like seeing that candidates came from nationally accredited schools.

St. Scholastica, yearly, has about 80 students in its undergraduate teacher education program in Duluth and nearly 460 in its graduate teacher licensure program between its Duluth, St. Cloud and Twin Cities campuses.

Olsen said students in the St. Scholastica education program are out working in schools as soon as freshmen year to make sure the career path is the right one.

"We have good partnerships with schools," she said.

Duluth Edison Charter Schools regularly has dozens of St. Scholastica students working in its two schools over the course of a year, from those observing to those student teaching.

"I've seen a really strong work ethic in their students and a commitment to going the extra mile," said Bonnie Jorgenson, head of schools for Duluth Edison. "You have to believe that some of that comes from the quality of instruction and the educators they are working with at St. Scholastica."

The yearlong process was stressful, and involved answering "tough questions" from a panel of reviewers in Washington, D.C., said Chery Takkunen, associate professor and chairwoman of the graduate education program within the School of Education.

The designation assures the public that "what we say we actually do," she said.

"It feels very good, but at the center of all of this is K-12 student learning," Takkunen said. "That's at the heart of what we do."