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MSU-Northern making the grade


Alice Campbell Havre Daily News acampbell@havredailynews.com

Montana State Univers i ty- Northern's Education Department has been a flurry of activity, making itself better, and Wednesday, staffers were recognized for their efforts by an accreditation team. The team, from the state Office of Public Instruction, will present its findings in the form of a recommendation to the State Board of Public Education in early 2010. It visited Northern Sunday through Wednesday, giving its preliminary findings to department members Wednesday morning. The team interviewed and visited different participants and components of the program to verify that reports are accurate and show the depth of the program. More than 100 people were interviewed during the two-and-a-half day visit, said Audrey Peterson, chairperson of the team and a professor-emeritus of the University of Montana at Missoula. "It's nice to know that all that work and the progress is going to have a happy ending," said Fred Smiley, an associate professor of education who helped prepare for the visit. Darlene Sellers, professor of eduCation, who also helped prepare for the visit, said that it was a lot of work and that scrutiny of the program can be painful . I t 's worth i t , though. "We're striving to develop and promote programs that are meeting the needs of our students, and that's what we're all about," she said. She too sees the visit as having a good outcome and called the programs healthy. Improvement is a constant process, she said, and the accreditation process helps to p o i n t o u t what can be improved. "It encourages cont inu o u s imp rovement , i t encourages self study," she said. While there were some areas that were declared not met or met with weakness, ove ra l l t h e s c h o o l has improved greatly since the team's April visit, Peterson said. "I want to commend you on the phenomenal, large steps since we've been here i n April," Peterson said. D u r i n g h e r o p e n i n g remarks of the non-interactive exit interview, Peterson thanked the school for its hospitality. She explained the process, saying, "this is not a gotcha process," but rather about giving advice about how to make the programs the best possible every seven years, the team reviews nine education programs located at various schools in the state. The team looked at unit standards for example: the way that business is done, resources, policies and procedures and content standards for example: actual classroom subjects. Three major themes ran through the visit: program coherence, collaboration and systematics. Program coherence deals with how clearly the school can articulate what the program should do. That includes assessments to measure how well what is meant to be communicated actually is, looking at and interpreting that data, reporting back and using the info rma t i on g a the re d t o adjust the program, Peterson said. Collaboration deals with the ownership that participants and those running the program have in it, she said. If the program is systematic, each student has the same access to all aspects of the program, Peterson said. A written report to which the school can respond will be sent to Northern. After that, the report will be presented to the state Board of Public Education as a recommendation of whether Northern's education program should be accredited or not, Peterson said. What happens next depends on what the board decides, she said. The visit is finished, but Peterson told those in attendance that the work doesn't end. "This is not an event you can now forget about for s eve n ye a r s, " s h e s a i d. Instead, the process of continually improving the education program to educate the best educators possible continues, she said. "And of course, there's always more to do." Peterson said she recognize s a n d a p p r e c i a t e s t h e "amount of care you give your students, each other and the community." "We look forward to seeing yo u r re p o r t , " s a i d Joe Callahan, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at Northern. "And we will hit the ground running with this tomorrow."


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