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Westfield State teacher education program nationally accredited and commended for antiracism work

Westfield State University’s teacher education program has received full, seven-year accreditation with commendation from the Association for Advancing Quality in Educator Preparation (AAQEP) for its wide-ranging, respected, and growing work in antiracist education. Westfield State is the first institution of higher education in the AAQEP membership to receive commendation from the organization.

“Educator preparation at Westfield State has been a vital and integral part of Westfield State University since Horace Mann founded the institution in 1839 as the Westfield Normal School. It is Horace Mann’s philosophy that we continue to embrace: to welcome all students—regardless of fortune, ethnicity, gender, or religion. This remarkable heritage, is embodied by our Education Department,” said Westfield State University Interim President Roy H. Saigo, Ph.D., “National accreditation by AAQEP continues the affirmation of Westfield State University’s longstanding tradition of excellence in teacher preparation for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and region.”

The Westfield State Education Department’s teacher education program is designed to prepare educators to teach effectively within a democratic society. Its mission is informed by six pillars: critical engagement with diversity, social justice, community building, scholarship, and reflective practice. Program coursework and field experiences provide students with the understanding, knowledge, and skills that will enable them, as teachers, to engage with diversity and issues of equity, build inclusive learning communities, embrace the scholarship of teaching and learning, and adopt a reflective practitioner mindset. These principles—which undergird the Teacher Education program—set expectations that are essential for those who will teach in K–12 schools and collectively are needed to provide the foundational knowledge for Westfield State students to become effective, caring, and equitable teachers.

Westfield State University Interim Provost Robert Kersting, Ph.D., in recognizing the faculty, staff, and librarians, whose collective efforts made AAQEP accreditation possible said, “Westfield State University strives for excellence in each of our academic programs, and this prestigious accreditation with commendation is a clear example of that success.”

After reviewing the evidence collected through a process of self-study and peer review, the AAQEP Accreditation Commission issued the decision at its June 24, 2020, meeting along with the following rationale: “Westfield State’s program presented compelling evidence that it meets all AAQEP standards. The evidence showed that program completers are prepared to effectively work as professional educators and that they are able to adapt to different contexts and to professionally grow. Program capacity to analyze and provide evidence for sustained actions and revisions on behalf of candidates was evident and sufficient to meet AAQEP standards. The program engages with stakeholders and partners to strengthen the pre-school-through-graduate school (P–20) education system across the region.” 

The Accreditation Commission also commended the University’s education programs for their concerted and deepening work in antiracist education (ARE), as these efforts permeate the preparation of educators; are embedded in and impact the wider campus culture; and reach into the community through campus- and program-based partnerships.  “Congratulations to Westfield State University and to all the faculty, staff, and stakeholders who have achieved their goal of national accreditation by AAQEP, particularly for being the first campus in our membership to be formally awarded a commendation by the commission,” said Mark LaCelle-Peterson, Ed.D., president and CEO of AAQEP. “The program made a clear case for quality in relation to all four AAQEP standards, and its work in antiracist education is remarkable.”

All education students participate in annual Anti-Racist Education (ARE) Town Hall events featuring relevant themes like the School-to-Prison Pipeline, share common readings across courses, and participate in guest lectures on campus. The ARE Project most recently hosted political activist and Harvard University Professor Cornel West, Ph.D., who addressed a large audience on March 4 at Westfield State on “Solidarity and Servant Leadership: The Power of Deep Education.”

Westfield State’s Education Department’s robust list of AAQEP- and Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education-approved programs spans many licensure areas, at the undergraduate, post-graduate, and graduate levels.

“Achieving national accreditation is a testament to the innovative teaching and creative experiences provided by our education faculty, content area specialists, and staff,” said Westfield State Associate Dean of Education Cheryl A. Stanley, Ed.D. “Being nationally recognized for Westfield State University’s antiracist education is a great honor. Our work is ongoing and addressed within program coursework as well as in our engagements with P–12 partner schools as we collaborate in service of a more equitable educational system.”

Juline E. Mills, Ph.D., dean of Westfield State’s College of Education, Health, and Human Services, commended the tireless work of the staff of the Office of Teacher Education, Licensure, and Outreach—Dean Stanley, Professor James Martin-Rehrmann, Ph.D.; Professor and Department of Education Chair Megan Kennedy, Ph.D.; Wendy Wiggins, Barbara Lucas, and Fran Zampini—for making Westfield State University AAQEP accreditation possible.

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