After several years of debate, we have finally developed National Quality Program Standards for agricultural education. We have taken the quantum leap by writing these critical standards, despite state and regional differences that were considered major obstacles in the past. The standards have been reviewed and approved by each member organization of National Team Ag Ed and now are now being piloted in 10 states across the nation: Connecticut, New Jersey, Iowa, Minnesota, Louisiana, Arkansas, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada and Colorado.
Five schools in each state have volunteered to participate over the next year, each having completed the improvement tool and scoring themselves using the rubrics designed within the standards. Each school then selected one or two areas of the standards to emphasize for improvement over the next year and will spend this year concentrating on making improvement in these identified areas. At the conclusion of the school year, the instructors will re-score themselves to discern the amount of program improvement that occurred over the course of the school year. This data will be used to suggest revisions in the standards, as well as to guide future implementation of the National Quality Program Standards across the nation.
One might pause to ask why we have developed national quality standards at this time and why they are needed. The truth is that many states have not maintained state quality program standards, due simply to a lack of sufficient state staff to maintain, update and assure implementation. The National Quality Program Standards have been developed by reviewing existing state standards and infusing current agricultural education and general education policy and laws. In the absence of any document to refer to, instructors were forced to make many decisions concerning program quality without the benefit of any guidance. For example, the National Quality Program Standards address experiential learning programs and outline indicators that will help instructors understand their role in supervising SAEs and involving partners in SAEs. The NQPS also address instruction, leadership development, program planning, marketing, partnership development and professional development – many of which have previously not been reviewed.
I encourage you to access the National Quality Program Standards, review them, and use them as a support tool to strengthen your programs in cooperation with your local advisory committees and administrations.