Several months ago, FIRE CHIEF hosted a webinar, in which three experienced industry educators shared their insights about pursuit of higher education and efforts to standardize fire science and professional development. The webinar included some interesting discussion about accredited institutions, transferable credits, and regional versus national accreditation. (If you didn't attend, “How Further Education Can Help You Become a More Effective Leader of Emergency Services” is available on-demand with registration.) One of the questions posed during the webinar was: With fire personnel submitting degrees "not worth the paper" they are written on, how can an organization protect themselves against these degrees?
The American Council on Education is here to help.
ACE — which evaluates courses at the National Fire Academy — recently implemented procedural changes to 22 courses that will take effect at the National Fire Academy in the next 90 days.
ACE instituted the changes in response both to national news reports of grade schools and high schools in major metropolitan cities cheating on “No Child Left Behind” testing, and of increasing reports of diploma mills and non-accredited colleges and universities committing criminal fraud.
“What’s happening is [ACE] is universally tightening down on credible schools around the country,” NFA Superintendant Denis Onieal said.
The NFA now will be required to provide additional background material that shows exercises and course projects have been evaluated based on the course criteria. Students also will be monitored more closely in terms of their performance in the class, and NFA instructors will receive more formal evaluations over NFA instructors.
“We have to be able to state the mark if asked and be able to account for how the final grade has been achieved,” Onieal said. “This is nothing new for us. We've been always evaluating our instructors plus the students, but the only difference now is that we're going to have to keep a more formal record-keeping system of the evaluations and their performance to that.”
Over the next several years, ACE will go through all of the NFA’s curriculum until all of those courses are evaluated and so as the course is revised or developed, those changes as well.
“We welcome the changes,” Onieal said. “The American Council on Education to us is an outside academic review; it’s independent from us.”
This is good news for the men and women who attend classes at the National Fire Academy, as well as for the fire service itself. That the National Fire Academy is keeping in step with the American Council on Education raises the professionalism of the fire-and-emergency service and its future leaders.