Good News from Program Approval for Gordon’s School of Education

By Lisa McDonough, director of research for academic programs and educational effectiveness

If you’ve ever seen a Gordon teacher in action, you know the joy of watching someone who’s great at what they do. And to see the response from the students—the leaning forward, the raised hands, the smiles—maybe it made you pause and consider the huge impact these graduates have. The information we have bears it out: Students with Gordon teachers make more progress in math and English than students with other teachers. Gordon teachers receive higher performance evaluations than their peers statewide.

It’s a lot of work to help teacher candidates become such effective educators, and the faculty and staff at Gordon’s School of Education do that work every day. They bring evidence-based practice, personal advising and lots of constructive feedback and encouragement. But they couldn’t do that legally without approval from the State of Massachusetts’ oversight agency. And 2021 was the year that Gordon’s School of Education went through the extensive process that reauthorizes it to prepare future educators—as music teachers, high school biology teachers, reading specialists, English as a Second Language teachers, principals and more! 

The State agency, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), that conducts this exhaustive audit is unapologetic about holding teacher preparation programs to rigorous and wide-ranging standards. DESE evaluates a large volume of information supplied by Gordon and compares it to survey, learning and other data that the agency collects independently, including through focus groups. DESE assembles groups of current students, graduates, principals, teachers who supervise Gordon candidates during student-teaching, and others and asks many questions about their experiences with the program. 

Last month, it was finally over and Gordon’s School of Education, which includes both undergraduate and graduate offerings, was congratulated by DESE for “full approval” in all areas. The School was also commended as “Exemplary” in one area, meaning that in this area, Gordon is noted as a model for other teacher preparation programs in both the state and across the nation. This designation was awarded for how effectively faculty and staff at Gordon work together to make its education and music education programs strong. It was also a commendation for the strong collaboration among education, arts and science faculty to ensure that teacher candidates have course content that they need. DESE also commended the School of Education for its commitment to continuous improvement.

Dean of the School of Education and Director of Graduate Education Programs Dr. Janet Arndt said, “Colleagues working together at Gordon is part of what makes our programs strong. I’m pleased to see that recognition in DESE’s final report. We work together closely within education and we work closely with arts and science faculty to make sure our content courses are excellent and our students are well-equipped.”

Dr. Priscilla Nelson, chair of undergraduate education programs noted, “DESE recognized our deep commitment to continuous improvement in our programs. They heard from our current students and graduates in focus groups as well as principals and teachers who supervise our students during student teaching. We are always looking for ways to improve our programs, gathering feedback and data, and making changes. It’s one of the great strengths of our program.”

So indeed, congratulations, education faculty and staff, on this exciting achievement! Your work every day equips future teachers and leaders to make a difference in the lives of children and their families!