The State Board of Education has approved a plan to address several University of Alaska Anchorage education programs' loss of accreditation, which left hundreds of prospective teachers in potential academic limbo late last year.

At a Monday meeting in Juneau, the board voted to adopt the state Department of Education and Early Development’s proposed response to seven School of Education initial licensure programs losing their accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Education Preparation.

State Education Commissioner Michael Johnson recommended that the board approve the plan but James Fields, the board’s chair, expressed misgivings in comments on the decision which followed an executive session.

"It's unfortunate that we're in the situation we're in, but at this point we just have to move forward and make sure this never happens again," Fields said.

The proposal, adopted by the board and outlined in a DEED document, calls for the School of Education to submit a full response addressing the accreditation problems. It will then be reviewed by Dr. Steve Atwater, the school’s dean, as well as Tamara Van Wyhe, the new director of DEED’s Division of Educator and School Excellence. After Johnson reviews the plan and provides a recommendation for action to the board, it will approve or reject UAA’s plan.

University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen said Monday evening that UA was "thankful" for the board's decision.

“This has been our highest priority, and the Board of Education has been a valuable partner in resolving this immediate issue for our students," Johnsen said. "Now we must work toward longer term options for the UAA education program. With the full support of the Board of Regents and UAA Chancellor Cathy Sandeen, I personally have promised our students that I will do all that I can to make this right for each of them.”

The board also signed off Monday on the department’s decision to grant Alaska accreditation to affected spring and summer graduates this year, according to DEED spokeswoman Erin Hardin, “based on the fact that the program was accredited and approved through December 31, 2018.”

"Under this motion, graduates of the University of Alaska Anchorage initial teacher preparation programs in the spring semester and summer term of 2019 will be considered to have graduated from a state-approved program," Hardin wrote.

Editor's note: An initial version of this story inaccurately said the adopted proposal was made by UAA, not DEED.

Zachary Kelly contributed information to this story.

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