University Relations and Communications

Education Celebration

March 21, 2011


Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269


MSU Billings’ College of Education marks flawless accreditation reviews, appointment of new dean


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — Call it spring fever. Call it a celebratory sigh of relief. Call it a landmark moment.

No matter how you describe it, there was something in the air Friday when big news hit the Montana State University Billings College of Education.


Giddy with anticipation, professors, students and friends of the college gathered at the university Friday afternoon for the official announcement of its national and statewide accreditation — and its new dean.


“This is great achievement,” said Dr. Rolf Groseth, chancellor of MSU Billings, as he officially presented the accreditation certificate from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) to Dr. Mary Susan Fishbaugh.


And virtually simultaneously, Fishbaugh’s title of interim dean of the College of Education was updated. She is now the permanent dean of the college.


After serving more than five years in an interim capacity and following an extensive search, Groseth announced to a crowd of about 50 people at the College of Education that Fishbaugh was the best person to guide the college and its two dozen faculty.


“I really want to move this college into the future,” Fishbaugh said. “I really want us to be looked on as a national leader.”


An affirmation of the excellence of its programs in the teacher preparation and advanced preparation levels, reviewers for NCATE and the Montana Office of Public Instruction recently reaccredited the MSU Billings programs with flying colors. The decisions indicate the College of Education and its staff meet rigorous standards set forth by the professional education community.


According to the NCATE reviewers, “special congratulations are in order because the Unit Accreditation Board has cited no areas for improvement relative to any of the standards.”


That is a significant achievement, college leaders said, because it rarely happens.


“They always seem to have plans for improvement, but we didn’t get them,” said Dr. Ken Miller, who is director of educational programs and department chair at the College of Education. “That’s absolutely incredible.”


The state and national accrediting agencies took close looks at student teaching programs that address classroom management, diversity of the programs and students, faculty qualifications and data on performance of students in their field experiences. For a university that was founded in 1927 with teacher training as its mission, that is an important and historical process.


“As department chair, I deal with the programs and I’m really proud of how the faculty have gathered together and worked on their programs to make them the best they can be,” Miller said.


The accreditation process, Fishbaugh said, was something of which the entire university could be proud.


Dr. Cindy Dell and Dr. Dixie Metheny served as co-assessment coordinators and worked with Miller on gathering information that faculty and staff needed to prove its work in the classroom and in the field.  Dr. Sharon Hobbs served as accreditation coordinator, taking responsibility for developing an electronic exhibit site that is now a national model for other colleges.


In addition, department chairs and faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Allied Health Professions and the College of Business worked with the College of Education in completing the state program report templates. Those reports demonstrate where content meet state standards and how student performance outcomes are assessed. Since students who are training to be teachers work on areas of emphasis in everything from science to math to physical education, those inter-university linkages are important, Fishbaugh said.


“We couldn’t have attained this flawless status without them,” she said.


Even with the good news, College of Education faculty and leaders won’t rest on their laurels. Miller said he plans to use the accreditation report “as a way to get better.” Adjustments are being made now in current programs based on ongoing assessment and he is working on a pilot program with some educators in Billings School District 2 that put student teachers in a role of co-teacher instead of an apprentice. It aids in overall classroom planning and management and when used in other states, it improves the test scores and student teaching experience, he said.


“We’ve got to be out there and on the cutting edge,” he said.


PHOTO ABOVE: MSU Billings Chancellor Dr. Rolf Groseth, left, and Dr. Mary Susan Fishbaugh, new dean of the university’s College of Education, hold up the national accreditation certificate during a celebration at the university on Friday. It was a double celebration on Friday as Fishbaugh was named permanent dean after serving in an interim capacity for the past five years.


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