By Steven Krolak
(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)–Dr. Rachel Star, assistant professor of education, has just completed an impressive journey.
She is now an official site visitor for the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), the organization that accredits schools of education, including the School of Education at IU Southeast.
She joins Dr. Doyin Coker-Kolo and Dr. Sau Hou Chang as the third CAEP site visitor among IU Southeast School of Education faculty.
As a site visitor, she will be an integral part of the elite peer review teams that assess the self-study documents of other schools, and that then visits them, in order to ensure adherence to CAEP standards before accreditation or re-accreditation can be granted.
“CAEP’s mission is to advance equity and excellence in educator preparation through evidence-based accreditation that assures quality and supports continuous improvement to strengthen P-12 learning,” according to the organization’s website.
Star has been a CAEP coordinator since 2016, when she joined IU Southeast, and began to lead the effort to implement feedback from the School of Education’s most recent re-accreditation in 2013.
Becoming a site visitor involved a combination of persistence and passion. There were webinars, visits to CAEPCon, the organization’s conference, and testing before two days of intensive onsite training and post-measure assessment in Washington, D.C.
As a site visitor, she will assess the performance of education programs in other institutions, reviewing self-study documents, interviewing faculty, and finally helping to determine whether a school has earned CAEP accreditation.
For Star, being a site visitor is a true service to the profession. It also has benefits for her own institution. On one hand, it’s a little like having inside information–one knows what the accrediting body is looking for, what questions they are likely to ask, what sorts of weaknesses may jump out at them.
On the other hand, one also knows that the process is not a test, but part of a larger process of improvement over time. Every institution is unique, and explaining differences enriches the compliance process.
“When you are a site visitor, you get the whole picture of a program, from both sides,” Star said. “That gives our steering committee an opportunity to look at our own self-assessments in a more critical, constructive, elaborate way, and make changes that benefit our teacher candidates.”
For Star, who serves as the chairperson of the steering committee for accreditation in the School of Education, the process has opened her eyes not only to the CAEP process, but to the strength of professional relationships that form the foundation of trust and success within her own school.
“I believe in what I do,” Star said. “And through this process, I’m becoming a better educator, researcher, leader and person.”