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Why Should Art Teachers Care About Compliance?

Every art teacher wants to create an impact through their work. When I was teaching 9-12 grade art, I desperately wanted to make changes to the system but felt like I kept running into a wall. At the time, I wasn’t sure what the answer was, but I knew I couldn’t create the impact I wanted to by staying in the classroom, so I quit.

That is not to say you can’t make a great impact in the classroom. I believe you can, and that is what led me to my role today.

Amber Kane, Head of Compliance, The Art of Education University 

My job is to help you gain access to the education and resources you and your students deserve. By asking the right questions, we empower you to advocate for yourself and research and create supports to help you when you can’t.

The role of a Compliance Officer varies from one institution to the next.

At AOEU, we believe compliance is finding creative ways to solve problems and break down existing barriers in art education.

A large part of my job is to understand accreditation and help you determine how it works for you.

What is accreditation?

question mark as a lit up sign

In order for a university to become a university, it needs to become accredited. During the accreditation process, schools submit reports, complete paperwork, and have a site visit to demonstrate that they can meet all of the standards set out by the accreditor. This is a multi-year process that often goes on behind the scenes. When schools are applying for initial accreditation, they have to keep it a secret, which can be very difficult.

After initial accreditation, schools continue to renew their accreditation on a set cycle, ensuring schools continue to uphold the standards. Standards are designed to protect students by ensuring quality education, properly trained faculty, and financial stability.

What does accreditation mean for you?

As an art teacher, it can be hard to find graduate-level courses and degree programs that fit your schedule and meet your specific needs. This is why we at AOEU pride ourselves on our accreditation. We meet your needs, and we are accredited by The Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). At AOEU, it is my job to understand the standards, requirements, and complete needed documentation to remain accredited.

What is the difference between regional and national accreditation?

There are many accrediting bodies, most of which you can find listed on the United States Department of Education website. Higher education institutions (beyond K-12 education) apply for accreditation to specific accrediting bodies based on location as well as the type of program(s) they offer. Historically, schools were accredited by the accreditation body in their geographic location. That is where the term “regional” accreditation comes from. Schools with online programs or niche programs often apply for “national” accreditation because they aren’t tied to a geographic location. However, the terms “regional” and “national” are shifting as are the boundaries that accreditors operate in.

When researching courses and/or programs to renew your license, advance on the salary schedule, or upgrade your teaching license, you first need to know what type of accreditation your state and district require. Next, make sure you understand the accreditation of the programs and courses you’re interested in.

How to research accreditation:

1. Review the state map.

The state map is designed to make it easier for you to understand requirements within your state and see how what AOEU offers connects to those requirements. Click on the map below:

The Compliance Department maintains the information on the state map and does an annual audit, making updates as new information arises. The map is divided into five categories based on your personal and professional goals. Be sure to explore each drop-down menu, and click on the provided links to learn more. As you review the state map, you’ll see in many cases, when looking for information about salary advancement, we point you toward your district. Because of the number of school districts throughout the United States, we’re not able to complete research at the district level, but we can help you know where to look for the information and what to look for.

2. Read your contract.

I’ll be the first to admit when I taught, I didn’t pay much attention to my contract until I needed to know something. Then I would scramble, trying to find the most recent contract and work to make sense of what it said.

  1. Step One: Find your contract, which may also be labeled as a collective bargaining agreement. If you work at a public school, it will often be posted somewhere on your district website, or you can usually find it by doing a few Google searches. If neither of those options work, reach out to your union rep or HR department and ask for a copy.
  2. Step Two: Know what you’re looking for. Many collective bargaining agreements are long and can be overwhelming if you aren’t sure what you’re looking for. The best place to start is by looking for information related to your goals. For this example, let’s pretend your goal is salary advancement. Not all districts use the same terms, so I’ll give you a few to get started. Search for the following terms: salary advancement, salary schedule, salary chart, and/or lane change. If you’re reviewing your contract on the computer, try using the keys command + F. This should produce a search bar that allows you to enter the above terms and see where they appear in your contract.
  3. Step Three: As you find terms related to your goals, read through all of the provided information and make notes about the listed requirements.
  4. Step Four: Once you have a list of what you’re looking for, see how it aligns with the courses or graduate program you’re interested in attending.

Things to look for:

  • How many graduate credits do you need to earn to move up on the salary schedule?
  • When will your raise apply to your paycheck?
  • What documentation do you need to submit in order to have your courses apply to your raise? Are there any deadlines?
  • Do you need to get courses approved before taking them? If so, what are the steps?
  • Are there specific requirements about the type of accreditation that must be listed on your transcripts?
  • Are there any other parameters around the type of coursework you’re allowed to complete?

If you’re looking at courses or the Master of Arts in Art Education Degree from AOEU, you can reach out to the admissions team for further help in understanding how the degree can help you reach our goals. Make sure to provide them with all of the information you found to the above questions.

What if your district and/or state require coursework to be taken from a regionally accredited institution, and you’re interested in taking coursework from a nationally accredited institution like AOEU?

If the requirements outlined by your district and/or state don’t align with your desired program, that means that it’s time for you to advocate. As an art teacher, advocacy is something that isn’t new to you.

Recently the United States Department of Education released a letter to all states saying:

“The Department is aware that some States have enacted laws and policies that treat institutions and the students who attend them differently based solely on whether the institution is accredited by a “national” accrediting agency or a “regional” accrediting agency. Because the Department holds all accrediting agencies to the same standards, distinctions between regional and national accrediting agencies are unfounded. Moreover, we have determined that most regional accreditors operate well outside of their historic geographic borders, primarily through the accreditation of branch campuses and additional locations. As a result, our new regulations have removed geography from an accrediting agency’s scope. Instead of distinguishing between regional and national accrediting agencies, the Department will distinguish only between institutional and programmatic accrediting agencies. The Department will no longer use the terms ‘regional’ or ‘national’ to refer to the accrediting agency.”

Download letter here: 

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It is important to note that the shift in language will not go into effect at the federal government level until July 2020, and while states and districts are encouraged to follow, they are not mandated to do so.

What does this mean for you?

The letter states, “The Department will no longer use the terms ‘regional’ or ‘national’ to refer to the accrediting agency.” This is good news, as you can encourage your state and district to adopt the recommended change in language from the USDOE.

3. Advocate for yourself:

So, how do you use this information to your advantage?

  1. First, talk to your district about their requirements.
  2. Share the USDOE letter.
  3. Share AOEU’s accreditation.
  4. Talk to an admissions counselor, they can further assist you and help you prepare a letter to send to your state.

While at first, compliance can seem like a mess of rules and regulations, once understood and used it can be incredibly empowering. As an art educator, and now Head of Compliance, I believe in teachers having access to and bettering their work for themselves and their students. By paying attention to all the requirements and implications of accreditation, we are honoring the commitment we are making to our current and future students.

What do compliance and accreditation mean to you? 

How can we help you better understand the role compliance and accreditation can play as you become a better art educator? 

Amber Kane

AOEU Admin

Amber Kane is a High School Art Teacher and textile designer in PA. Through questioning and a focus on the creative thought process, she strives to help her students uncover their personal voice and see how they can use art to create impact.