Franklin College has gained state recognition for its educator preparation programs, including the recently lost elementary education program and a new secondary education transition to teaching program. At a May 5 meeting of the State Board of Education, the 11-member board voted unanimously to recognize the programs.
The group unanimously voted to approve the report, which includes a recommendation for the Elementary Education Generalist Education, Secondary Education Transition to Teaching and general New Educator Preparation programs.
The college later announced the decision to students in an email statement.
“Franklin College is proud to continue its historic mission of preparing quality educators who will positively impact the lives of students throughout Indiana and the nation,” the statement said.
In order to retain state recognition, these programs must become approved by the state board’s national partner, the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, or CAEP.
The process to reapply for national accreditation through CAEP begins with setting a site visit date 18-24 months in advance. A self-study report is done by the college in this time period prior to the site visit. One semester following the site visit, the CAEP Accreditation Council meets to make an accreditation decision. The college will receive notice of that decision a month after.
“Sometimes we get people that want to do it sooner and certainly we can work with them if they do, but we just want to make sure they're prepared and understand, you know, what it takes,” said Christopher Koch, president of CAEP.
Prather said the next step is to reconvene with the state and decide on a timeline. The institution needs time to collect cycles of data to illustrate that the curriculum reaches the standards, he explained.
While national accreditation is necessary to retain state recognition of the college’s programs, Prather said that at this time, there is no downside to not being nationally accredited.
Communication through confusion
The initial announcement about the college losing accreditation and a confusing process that ensued created some uneasiness for education students at Franklin College.
Junior Abigail Davis said she wasn’t affected by the change because she was already in the program. But, she said she sometimes feels like the college keeps students in the dark, even if it isn’t ill-intentioned.
“They don't fill us in until they have the exact answers,” Davis said. “Which, sometimes I wish they would just tell us what's in the works, if that makes sense.”
On April 20, elementary education students not currently enrolled in the program were invited to a meeting with Prather where he reassured them that the college would regain state recognition and begin working towards national accreditation. Because the State Board of Education had not yet voted to approve the Indiana Department of Education’s favorable report, students were told not to discuss the meeting with anyone.
Elizabeth Peters, a sophomore elementary education major, was one of the students who attended the meeting. She declined to discuss that particular meeting, but said she is content with the communication happening about the accreditation.
“I think they've given us as much information as they can, when they get it,” Peters said. “Everyone's been super nice about making sure that we are not stressing, that this is their issue to figure out and fix.”
Davis said she trusts her professors when they explain that they don’t have all the answers and she feels confident in her education.
“I still think even with all the craziness of the accreditation loss, the education program is awesome, outstanding,” she said. “I would recommend it to anyone.”
Secondary education faces change
The secondary education transition to teaching program will allow students interested in teaching middle and high schoolers to stay at Franklin College for all four years and complete their student teaching through the college.
This contrasts against the process students have undergone since fall 2018, when the college stopped offering secondary education as a path and instead required students interested in secondary teaching to major in the subject they wish to teach and complete an education studies minor. These students would also be required to finish coursework at Franklin College a semester early to complete student teaching through St. Mary-of-the-Woods College in Terre Haute.
The secondary education program was adjusted because the traditional, full-time major with tracks in English or language arts, French, life sciences, mathematics, physical education, social studies and Spanish, had low numbers in all of these major tracks. These low numbers caused the program to not meet CAEP’s standards for retention and enrollment.
Prather said all current seniors will stay on the same path, but for juniors in secondary education, it will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
“This will now become our program,” Prather said. “The ed studies minor will go away and we'll create the Transition to Teaching programs so that everything will be done by and at Franklin, including the student teaching piece.”
“Agreeing to disagree”
In late April 2020, CAEP revoked Franklin College’s elementary education program accreditation, citing that the college failed to meet all five of the organization's requirements.
This decision was repeatedly appealed by the college throughout the summer. In an August letter to CAEP coupled with an email to elementary education students, President Kerry Prather announced the revocation and said it “focuses on deficiencies in the development of the 2019 accreditation report over objective criteria demonstrating continued program quality.”
In a statement released in February 2021, CAEP refuted this.
“In response to the letter from Dr. Prather, CAEP would like to note that both the accreditation council (over 60 trained volunteers who examine evidence from hundreds of providers) and the appeals committee have reached their conclusions based on a lack of evidence for each of five standards,” the unsigned letter read. “As such, CAEP disagrees with the assertion that revocation was based on, ‘procedures not being followed.’”
Koch said the process is rigorous with many opportunities to appeal CAEP decisions, and that a revocation based on procedural issues would be a “gotcha” system that the organization does not support.
Prather said in an April 15 interview with The Franklin that the two parties “agreed to disagree.”
“We did not disagree on the fact that the report was poorly done. Our contention was that in the disheveled mess that was the original report, there was in fact, evidence of having met several of the standards,” he said. “So we made our argument, and our argument failed.”
Peters said that her understanding from the college was that paperwork was completed incorrectly. Because her mother is a teacher and Franklin College alumna, Peters said she knows what kind of teachers Franklin sends into the workforce and never lacked confidence in the program.
The college will not share what former employee completed the failed paperwork, but said they are no longer at the college. David Moffett managed accreditation efforts for the college in 2019, the period that would have affected CAEP’s latest decision about the elementary education major.
Moffett declined to comment. It is unclear what other employees, if any, may have been involved in the reporting process.
Koch rejected the idea that the accreditation loss could be pinned on one person, saying a large amount of staff turnover in leadership positions is often a contributing factor.
“A successful accreditation doesn't mention just one person and one person's knowledge but, you know, multiple people kind of being able to carry the ball,” Koch said. “And sometimes, when there's a lot of turnover in leadership, that adversely impacts review because they don't know, necessarily, the history or what was going on.”
Koch said he graduated from an educator preparation program that didn’t adequately prepare him for the classroom and that CAEP is used by the state of Indiana to help prevent similar issues.
“There was a reason for this and for having standards and needing them and, and we appreciate Franklin's efforts and we wish them well as they go back through the process,” Koch said.
All education professors denied interview requests or did not respond in time for publication.