CBU’s Nationally Accredited Education Department Approved for Middle School Licensure, Reaches Out Into the Memphis Community
Dr. Samantha Alperin, chair of the CBU Department of Education
Christian Brothers University received renewal of its accreditation under the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) standards for initial teacher preparation and advanced teacher preparation this year. NCATE’s performance-based accreditation system for teacher preparation ensures that teacher candidates are prepared to make a difference in P-12 student learning.
Teacher education programs are not specifically required to be nationally accredited, only by the governing board of education in the state where they are located. CBU is approved as a Teacher Training Institution by the State Board of Education of the Tennessee Department of Education.
“CBU’s graduate education program has a superb reputation for developing teachers and education leaders in Memphis and the Midsouth,” says Dr. Paul Haught, CBU Vice President for Academics. “With NCATE renewing the program’s accreditation, we have an official confirmation of the strength and vitality of our degree programs, proving that CBU is an outstanding position to make a difference in the educational landscape of the region.”
CBU has been nationally accredited by NCATE since 2008 and offers 17 different programs for future and current educators, including four bachelor’s degree options, four master’s degree options, and a five-year program that combines the undergraduate and graduate degrees. Initial teaching licensure is included in five of CBU’s programs. Since its initial accreditation, CBU has added undergraduate programs in Early Childhood and Special Education, and is approved for Special Education licensure (K-5 and 6-12).
“The NCATE reviewers were particularly impressed by how well our students and faculty interact with one another,” says Dr. Samantha Alperin, chair of the CBU Department of Education. “That’s important to us at CBU, because that’s just who we are. Because we’re so small and student-focused, we are able to act as counselors for our students as well as faculty. In the event that a student’s grades drop or if they don’t pass their licensing exam or if their dispositions are not what we consider appropriate to a good teacher, we have a program in place to counsel them through these problems. A larger program simply can’t provide that level of support.”
Alperin says that the accrediting board was also complimentary of CBU’s faculty philosophy. “We’ve never hired a generalist, someone who can just pick up a book and teach anything,” she states, explaining that CBU searches out faculty with specialties and specific expertise. “We’ve also never hired someone who’s never taught in a K-12 classroom. Our students need to hear from our own personal experience.”
Education faculty members at CBU have previously been music teachers, English and social studies teachers, special education teachers, and school principals. All of them have spent years in the classroom, in school administration, even on the Board of Education. “Following the Lasallian tradition of the Christian Brothers, CBU is not a research university,” Alperin says. “Our primary focus is on the students, on teaching our students, not on publishing textbooks. It’s not about us, it’s about them. Teaching education theory is great, but we think our faculty needs the experience to tell students whether or not these theories work in actual practice.”
The State Board of Education of the Tennessee Department of Education has also approved CBU for Middle Grade (6-8) Licensure in the content areas of math, science, history, and English. This approval makes CBU currently the only institution of higher learning in West Tennessee to offer Middle Grade licensure.
Alperin sees this licensure approval as particularly significant, especially in light of CBU’s partnership with the Maxine Smith STEAM Academy, an optional middle school that opened in 2014. CBU provides engineering and science lab space and instruction, as well as library resources, to STEAM students. The CBU Education Department is still actively involved in faculty hiring and curriculum planning and is available for professional development. CBU also places many of its student teachers at the middle school. Because of this connection, the CBU Education Department is also planning to tailor a Middle Grade license for teachers in the STEM fields.
“Reaching out beyond our gates to serve the city of Memphis is one of CBU’s core values,” says President John Smarrelli, “and a personal passion of mine. The partnerships we are cultivating— with Maxine Smith STEAM Academy, Middle College High School, Crosstown High School, and elsewhere—are borne out of our commitment to providing educational opportunities and pathways to the community in which we live. Additionally, they give us unique opportunities to equip the teachers we are developing here at CBU to serve the students of Memphis, as over 80% of our graduates remain in the city, using their CBU degrees to educate the next generation of Memphians.”
“It sounds like such a cliché and it makes me cringe sometimes, but I really do believe that teaching is a true calling,” Alperin says. “People come to us because this is what they feel like they are meant to do, whether they’re going into it as undergrads or whether they’re second-career folks coming into the graduate programs. Their heart is there, and that’s why they’re going to do it.”