Teacher Education

Talking CAEP Accreditation with the President of CAEP [Podcast]

Talking CAEP Accreditation with the President of CAEP [Podcast]

Updated December 2023


Today we talk all things accreditation with CAEP’s President Dr. Christopher Koch. He shares his perspective on accreditation in the US and even includes some useful CAEP accreditation tips. On the eve of CAEPCon 2020 in New Orleans, I know you’ll find this episode useful as your program navigates accreditation. (00:17 – 00:36)

Because of the dire shortages across this country, and the drop in enrollments, there's a lot of concessions being made for standards in order to fill and put bodies in classrooms. —Dr. Christopher Koch, CAEP President #CAEPCon Share on X

Dr. Koch, welcome to The Teacher Education podcast. How are you? (00:37)

Dr. Christopher A. Koch: I’m doing well thank you. (00:41)

Now, you are the President of CAEP. How did you get where you are? (00:42 – 00:46)

Dr. Christopher A. Koch: Good story. Well, I was teaching high school initially. Many of my high school students were not reading at grade level, and unfortunately, I didn’t have instruction in the teaching of reading, so I had to go back to my institution, and they said they don’t offer those courses, and I had to go to other places to get that training. So I’ve always cared a lot about teacher training. (00:47 – 01:38)

I, later on, became the State Director of Special Education in Illinois and then also was Commissioner in Illinois for eight years. And when I was Commissioner, I was asked as a Commissioner to serve on the CAEP board and that was important to me because as a state, our licensure body had taken action with some providers in our state not to recognize them. (01:09 – 01:38)

And on one such occasion, I was called before the General Assembly and they reversed the decision because at the time it was accredited by one of the prior accreditors, before this merger in CAEP, was part of the basis for that, which frustrated me as Commissioner, because the school district in which that provider was, no one was hiring their teachers, at all. So all these candidates were going through and they weren’t getting jobs, and it was a big concern. (01:39 – 02:11)

Accreditation is important because it's serving two purposes. One is accountability to the public and to candidates. Second is continuous improvement. —Dr. Koch, CAEP President #CAEPCon Share on X

So I was selected to come onto the CAEP board. I served on the board while I was Commissioner and then there was a change in leadership in Illinois with a new governor and here, and they asked me to step in as an interim. So I did that for a while, while they did a search, and then they asked me to throw my hat in the ring for the search and that’s how I ended up at CAEP. So that’s a long story to show you the points in my life where teacher training has really mattered, why I think it’s important, and how it drove me into this role, and why I think accreditation is important because it’s serving two purposes. One, is accountability to the public, to candidates, but the other is continuous improvement. (02:12 – 02:54)

The Makeup of CAEP

As you said, you’ve been President of CAEP since 2015, what has been your proudest moment as CAEP President? (02:55 – 03:01)

Dr. Christopher A. Koch: By far it was the unification of standards for the profession, and starting to respect teacher training along the lines as we would medicine or law or engineering and other preparation, whether it’s a single set of standards, where it’s expected that that be met. So I was proud to be on the board when that was voted on, for the single set of standards with a merger of two prior accreditors. And I think the work in unifying that, in a process that’s meaningful to providers, is really important. And also having a process where we’re listening to the field through that process. (03:02 – 03:39)

One of the exciting things for me on the CAEP board is the board is made up of at least half providers who are actually preparing teachers, but we also have the voices of states, the voices of teachers, of teachers unions, the voices of specialized professional associations, currently in social studies and math, and the voices of those who hire teachers as well as members of the public. So there’s a lot of interest there served in a governing body towards a single set of standards for the profession. And I’m proud of that, and I think it’s the right role and I think having a mission that ties to K-12 learning is also key, and is really in the right place. (03:40 – 04:20)

Challenges and Looking to the Future

That’s fantastic. What is the biggest challenge that CAEP is currently facing right now? (04:21)

Dr. Christopher A. Koch: I think the biggest challenge we’ve had is having some of those folks that I mentioned care about accreditation. So parents know good teachers. They will tell you if their son or daughter has a quality teacher or a poor teacher, but what they don’t know or connect to is necessarily where they were prepared, and how that can have bearing on that. Similarly, we’re getting some increase in those who hire teachers asking if they came from a CAEP accredited institution or not, but because of the dire shortages across this country and the drop in enrollments, there’s a lot of concessions being made for standards in order to fill and put bodies in classrooms. (04:26 – 05:10)

So this works counter to having a set of standards. Teaching is very hard work. I can speak from personal experience. It requires certain matched skills and knowledge and a lot of support as you’re starting out in teaching. So our standards are driven to make sure that that happens and those, however, are key challenges for us. If the folks who are using and hiring teachers don’t care or aren’t asking us questions, either road really what we need in accreditation. (05:11 – 05:44)

I think the biggest challenge we've had is having those hiring and using teachers to care about accreditation. —Dr. Koch, CAEP President #CAEPCon Share on X

As we’re talking about challenges, I’m also curious about the future. What do you see in the future for CAEP? (05:45)

Dr. Christopher A. Koch: Well, we’re working hard to constantly make our CAEP accreditation process more streamlined. You know from prior accreditors we’ve went from a lot more processed to more outcomes, but as we’re thinking about the standards and using them, we’re always trying to streamline more. We are seeing certainly more alternative providers and certain states deal with that differently. But a number of alternative providers also can be accredited and can go through CAEP accreditation and have, and I believe with the shortages that we’re seeing, you’re going to see that evolve even more in the future. (05:51 – 06:24)

And you know in certain states like Texas, for example, they are producing the majority of teachers. So it’s not always the brick and mortar institutions. We also have online providers coming through CAEP accreditation. We have pretty common combinations of brick, mortar and online providers as well. So just a lot of different forces coming to work to try and help the supply chain. And certainly given the current labor market and a number of factors, you know folks are struggling and looking for ideas on how to increase the number of teachers in classrooms. (06:25 – 06:59)

CAEP vs Other Accrediting Bodies

Yes, that’s been one of the big themes as I’ve been interviewing different professionals across the country for this podcast. What are the differences between CAEP and other accrediting bodies? Because other accrediting bodies do exist. (07:00 – 07:14)

Dr. Christopher A. Koch: Yeah, they do. Well, CAEP is nationally recognized, so we’re recognized by the Council for Higher Ed Accreditation. We go through constant reviews, annual reviews by them, we send information to them, they look under the hood basically at all of our processes. We have to literally provide them with our work and they inspect it and make sure that it comports to their standards, which include also the accountability and public accountability. And so when you see our website evolve over time with more clarity, that’s to make it easier for people to digest information in the work that we do. So that’s one way in which we differ from other accreditors. (07:15 – 07:54)

We’re standards-based. We have standards that require data and evidence and that data and evidence are judged in consequential ways. So CAEP has taken consequential actions on a number of institutions, including revocations, denials, and putting institutions on probation. We don’t do that because we seek to do it. We try to avoid that at all costs if we can, but where it’s necessary, we’re also not approving a provider who really isn’t able to meet the standards. So I think that’s a change from the past and from other accreditors that might be out there, those would be some changes. We’re standards-based. We’re very focused on that and trying to ensure people understand what teachers, the skills and knowledge that teachers and administrators need to be able to do those important jobs. (07:55 – 08:45)

CAEP Resources and Advice

Evidence for CAEP Standards

You mentioned that evidence is really important for proving that a program is meeting CAEP standards. How are people providing evidence of that? (08:46 – 08:55)

Dr. Christopher A. Koch: Well, in a number of ways. If you’re looking at CAEP accreditation standard four, where you’re making connections to K12 learners, I think that’s been a struggle for a number of providers, although providers currently only have to develop plans for that, and so many have been able to do that. That task is easier in states that have data systems that make these connections. And certainly, there are states that do that, but we have a lot of providers in states where those data systems don’t exist, and they provide a means of connection in other ways. So for example, case studies as evidence, showing and sampling the candidates that have gone through. Certainly, employer surveys and those kinds of things are commonly provided as evidence for that standard. (08:56 – 09:41)

So by having that standard, what we see among faculty and deans and department chairs, are richer conversations around what do we know about our candidates, and how do we know they’re actually prepared to do those jobs. And are we asking them and what sort of feedback loop do we have in order to recalibrate what’s going on in the institution for preparation. And I think that’s a healthy thing and something that should be imposed. (09:42 – 10:14)

CAEP Resources

That’s actually a question that I had was, if someone is struggling with CAEP accreditation, is there a channel for them to get in touch with you to work with you? How should they do that? (10:44 – 10:57)

Dr. Christopher A. Koch: Absolutely. I mean there’s a lot of things they can do. Starting early is always good, and just looking and doing an inventory of what do we collect about our candidates, and what do we know in relation to these standards, and sort of what don’t we know. And I think that basic inventory and thinking about that proactively, reaching out to us, we reach out to them increasingly in a proactive way every year if your CAEP accredited, we touch base with you, and we are asking you the number of candidates, how the progress has been towards any deficiencies, and sort of what changes might be occurring in their institution. (10:58 – 11:34)

So we keep at least a couple touchpoints a year with providers as they go through and then we’re going to start signaling to them prior to their cycle coming up about their readiness and trying to get them to think about that, and we offer a number of free webinars, services, and training. We’re constantly retraining our volunteers to make sure that the information we learn from CAEP accreditation visits is fed back into the training of our volunteers. And we also have of course two national conferences a year. We have a lot of people come through those in preparation for a visit. Our next one here in New Orleans in March, just coming up. (11:35 – 12:13)

Are you attending CAEPCon 2020? Hear what CAEP's President, Dr. Koch, has to say about accreditation. #CAEPCon Share on X

So those tend to be forums where we’ll get a lot of people coming as well and we have pre and post conferences, so we have a lot of places where people can get both free of charge information and we do a lot of training also in states, particularly states that require accreditation. We’ll make a lot of visits to those states and meet with providers and create those opportunities as well. (12:14 – 12:34)

That’s fantastic and refreshing because so often you think of an accrediting body as this isolated figure that is ticking the boxes, right, and it sounds like you’re trying to really humanize that process for people. (12:35 – 12:46)

Dr. Christopher A. Koch: Yeah, we know this is high stakes. We know it’s highly stressful anytime you’re evaluated or judged, and certainly, we’re going through that ourselves again, and that helps remind us about, yes, this is high pressure, we feel it as well, because we have to meet certain standards and expectations and we’re judged, we build report committees, we make decisions about our, what we need to improve upon and whether we can exist. So we certainly understand that pressure and our staff are sensitive to that and certainly try to be supportive as possible. (12:47 – 13:19)

Standardization and Individuality

The next question I have for you is how does CAEP strike the right balance between standardization and adoption for individual programs? (13:20 – 13:29)

Dr. Christopher A. Koch: Yeah, I think by having outcomes-based standards, but allowing for innovation and flexibility on how they demonstrate evidence against that, that’s the best-case scenario for contextualizing to the institution. So for example, we often get small institutions who say, “Well I don’t think I can do it. We don’t have a lot of money. Will we have to buy expensive things and data processes?”, and we show them about a third of the providers who go through CAEP are small. So we actually have a large number of small institutions who do just as well as large institutions who go through. They have different challenges, but we’re able to work with that and contextualize that. (13:30 – 14:12)

We even adjust our team sizes applying to the number of candidates, the size of providers and we work very hard to get site teams who will understand the context that is going on in these institutions as they make decisions and recommendations. So we don’t want institutions to go through CAEP and be surprised. We want them to see how this is done and there are just multiple venues as they go through for them to have those interactions and that helps all sorts of programs in all sorts of contexts that they’re in. (14:13 – 14:44)

3 Ways to Conquer CAEP

I love this theme as being almost CAEP is friendly and come as you are, right, and we’ll work together. If a program is looking at CAEP accreditation, what would be three pieces of advice that you would give them? Where should a program begin with CAEP accreditation? (14:45 – 14:57)

Dr. Christopher A. Koch: Sure. One is to start early, so if you’re on a seven-year cycle and you’re not due for another four years, it’s a good idea to visit the standards, and look at them and think about those standards. And in particular also to know your data in relation to the standards, and what kind of data is missing. Think about that as early as possible. That will only be helpful during a review. And the third piece of advice would be to have a structure and a process to collect and analyze and report data. Think about that because that will help them with standard five. (14:58 – 15:31)

Again, that’s what we think about for CAEP schools and their improvement. It doesn’t do really a lot of good to collect information and data if you’re not using it. If you’re doing that and demonstrating that that’s possible within your institution, it’s going to be a fantastic leg up when you come to the CAEP accreditation process. So those three things I think would be most helpful to anyone considering or coming up for renewal with CAEP accreditation. (15:32 – 15:58)

What has been your favorite success story with CAEP? (15:59)

Dr. Christopher A. Koch: We’ve received letters from candidates and students in programs where we’ve taken action thanking us, which I don’t really expect, again, but it makes you feel somewhat validated by the work you’re doing, is in that this candidate went to this provider who we now did not recognize and wasn’t able to get a job. And similarly, students in that program were going to courses that weren’t making sense and for which faculty weren’t present and CAEP took action on that. And to receive letters from people who were either in those programs or had gone through them, and from states, saying “This is helpful and this needed to happen. And CAEP was a helpful catalyst for that.”, is a good thing. Again, it’s not that we seek to do that, but where those deficiencies exist and calling them out is important, and it’s serving the purpose of accreditation for both accountability and continuous improvement where it’s needed. (16:04 – 17:00)

Teaching standards are key to the wellbeing of our workforce and our future as a country. We cannot have an uneducated populace . . . And I think CAEP accreditation isn't the only answer to that, but I think it's a factor. —Dr. Koch, CAEP… Share on X

So I do think this kind of work is key to the wellbeing of our workforce and our future as a country. We cannot have an uneducated populace. We need folks to know what they’re doing when they leave high school, and leaving high school going into college should mean something, a diploma should mean something. And I think CAEP accreditation isn’t the only answer to that, but I think it’s a factor and something that can help towards that goal. (17:01 – 17:29)

Magic Wand Question

Well, it’s a laudatory goal for sure. Now I like to ask all of our guests this question and it is, if you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about accreditation in the United States, what would it be? (17:30 – 17:44)

Dr. Christopher A. Koch: One would be to have a unified standard and set of standards for one accreditor of teacher prep. I still think that’s important. I know there’s an emerging accreditor out there. I do just, I’ve always felt like that was important so that mixed messages aren’t given, lower standards aren’t allowed, and that folks are expected to meet high standards. I think as I mentioned before, we expect that of other professions. Why not teaching? I would love it if I could wave a magic wand for teaching to have the respect it deserves as a profession by everyone, legislators, by states, by parents. And I think teachers should be respected. They should be, absolutely respected. They’re doing very hard work, important work. And if I could wave a magic wand, I would make that so. So it’s going to take a while to earn and I realize we don’t have magic wands, but I do think that’s important. (17:45 – 18:42)

If I could wave a magic wand, we would have a unified set of standards for one accreditor of teacher prep. I know there's an emerging accreditor out there. —Dr. Koch, CAEP President #CAEPCon Share on X

Lightning Round

Now we end each of our podcasts by doing a lightning round with our guests. So I’m going to ask you a series of questions, and you just need to respond with a one-word or one-sentence answer. Are you ready? (18:43 – 18:54)

Dr. Christopher A. Koch: I’m ready. (18:55)

Last book that you read and enjoyed. (18:56)

Dr. Christopher A. Koch: I read all of Nathaniel Philbrick’s books. They’re nautical in nature, and I’ve just finished one of those. And that would be, I guess what I would put out that enjoy. I often don’t read [inaudible 00:19:09] books, so just so you know that’s my reading list. (18:59)

Your favorite movie. (19:15)

Dr. Christopher A. Koch: Just watched, re-watched Chocolat, which I thought was a good movie. It has a lot of good themes. (19:17)

Now CAEPCon is coming up. So the session that you’re most excited about for this conference. (19:23)

Dr. Christopher A. Koch: I’m excited by the keynote. I always like to hear the keynote speaker. I think we’ve got a lot of sessions dealing with equity and diversity, which I think is so important. So a number of those. (19:28 – 19:38)

The next destination on your travel bucket list. (19:39)

Dr. Christopher A. Koch: Have to be a sailing trip. I like to sail, so hopefully, it will be a sailing trip, maybe the British Virgin Islands next trip. (19:42)

And then finally the best CAEP resource. (19:50)

Dr. Christopher A. Koch: The best CAEP resource would be starting with our website, our resource list there. And the webinars that we have probably, and it depends where you are, and we have resources tailored to novices, intermediate and advanced. (19:52 – 20:06)

Okay, well that’s important. And do you want to give the website, the URL? (20:07)

Dr. Christopher A. Koch: Sure, www.ncate.org, absolutely. Just throw in CAEP in Google search and it’ll come up.

Fantastic. Well, Dr. Koch, thank you so much for joining us on the Teacher Education podcast. We know you have an important and busy job as the President of CAEP, so we appreciate you taking the time to tell us more about CAEP and what you expect for the future. (12:18 – 20:30)

Dr. Christopher A. Koch: Thank you. (20:31)


That’s it for today. Don’t forget to subscribe. If you like what you heard, please rate and review this podcast to help others find us. The Teacher Education Podcast is brought to you by GoReact. This episode was hosted by me, Hillary Gamblin, and produced by Danielle Burt, Joseph Winter, and Jordan Harris. Chad Jardine is our Executive Producer. Guests on the podcast are expressing personal opinions for informational purposes only. They’re not acting as official representatives for the universities or organizations.