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New SRU COE dean finds desktop full

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Keith Dils, Slippery Rock University's new College of Education dean, has found his desktop full - and he's only been on the job three weeks.

Dils, who comes to SRU following a nationwide search, most recently served a year as interim dean of the College of Education and Educational Technology at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, a program that included 1,400 undergraduate students and 850 graduate students.

SRU's College of Education enrolls 2,431 undergraduates and 410 graduate students.

"It has been terrific," Dils said. "Ever since I was named to the post, and I was living in Murrysville, many Slippery Rock University alumni came up to me and were very excited about Slippery Rock. They were excited about their experience here; and they had a lot of pride in the alma mater. I am from Harrisburg and have been home to see family, where I have also seen alumni who shake my hand and welcome me to the Slippery Rock family. That speaks volumes about SRU and alumni who are very proud of their University," he said.

"In getting to know the campus, everyone has been very friendly and helpful and welcoming, and I feel at home already," he said.

Although he is just settling in to campus, and to his new home in Cranberry Township, he said the top items on his desk already include beginning work on the Washington, D.C.-based National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education re-accreditation.

The College of Education's current accreditation runs through 2015. Re-accreditation, however, requires the continuous assessment of both individual teacher candidates and the College of Education as a whole, he said. "For candidates, their knowledge, skills and dispositions are assessed through a system of 'gates' that consist of key performance-based assessments. This system is used to insure candidates are making adequate progress as they move through the program."

"For the college, assessments are developed and conducted to measure overall candidate performance in field and diversity experiences. Data from employer surveys, graduate surveys and standardized state teacher exams are aggregated, analyzed and used to help make informed decisions about program development. Finally, evidence is collected concerning teacher candidates' impact on student learning," he said.

SRU received its first NCATE approval in 1954 and has continued the process for 59 consecutive years. Only 20 percent of Pennsylvania's teacher education programs have earned NCATE accreditation.

"SRU's College of Education has a rich history and a strong tradition of seeing its students involved in teaching and serving as counselors as well as having its graduates serve as educators throughout the world. Most of our college's students have been very successful. Some have parlayed their SRU education into related fields that require leadership skills and the ability to think on their feet. Our graduates hold teaching, counseling and administration positions, and also positions of leadership and service in all areas," Dils said

"We have to recognize the great things we have done; the faculty we have here are super, and they are clearly strong in their field; their pedagogy is excellent; and their focus on the students and their ability to give individualized coaching and feedback is so valuable," he said.

The upcoming NCATE review will allow the college to assemble its strengths, discuss them and improve on them, while simultaneously reviewing areas that need work or issues that need to be addressed, Dils said. "We are preparing to do that to accomplish our goals and meet NCATE standards as part of the process."

"It is tough work, but it is an excellent process that allows us to focus on what is important in teacher education. Accreditation is the way that the teacher education discipline pulls together what we know about what works in teaching. It is the way we police ourselves and allows us to have in-depth conversations about what works, not only on the individual level, but also on the institutional level. We look at our information, and we look at our data and we have discussions, both internally and with external accreditors," Dils said, who has been involved in three NCATE reviews in the last seven years, including work for initial accreditation at Kings College "where we had to put it all together from the ground up - and we were successful," he said.

"At IUP, we pursed NCATE's 'continuous improvement accreditation' and we were the first university in Pennsylvania to earn that accreditation," he said.

"In looking at Slippery Rock University, I see people with a wide variety of strengths, and I know we will pull together to benefit from the process," Dils said.