If you follow the NAACLS News blog, you are aware that new Standards for Accreditation and Approval were adopted by the NAACLS Board of Directors last September. So, mission accomplished, end of project, right? Not by a long shot. This is only a way-point in a continuous process of review, revise, and improve. Sound familiar? It should since this is a routine pattern at NAACLS. The Standards, like most NAACLS documents, are living documents requiring periodic review and revision. The needs of the professions change, education methodologies change, accreditation and approval processes change. In order to keep pace, the Standards need regular review and revision. This portion of the process is finished for now, but it’s not rest time. Now it’s time to review and revise the associated documents and processes affected by the changes in the new Standards—think “aftershocks” in earthquake parlance.
As the new Standards were being presented to the Board for adoption, charges for two new task forces were drafted and volunteers invited to serve. The User’s Guide Task Force (UGTF) is busy drafting a User’s Guide, an updated Guide to Accreditation and Approval, aimed at program officials. The User’s Guide, which will be online, will address requirements and suggestions for compliance with the Standards. The UGTF group has both abundant NAACLS experience and wide representation of covered professions to handle the aspects common to all professions and those that are profession-specific. A draft of the task force’s recommendations is due this spring and will be reviewed by the RCAP and PARC before coming before the Board. A final version is slated to be adopted and in place by September 2013 when the new Standards are implemented, ready for programs entering the accreditation/approval review cycle in 2014.
The Accreditation/Approval Paradigms Task Force, also formed in the fall, is busy considering more futuristic aspects of accreditation/approval such as the length of accreditation/approval awards, frequency of accreditation/approval reviews, the frequency and content of interim program reports, benchmark data collection and frequency, processes for analyzing outcomes data, and new policies/procedures for consortia and multi-location sponsors. This group also has wide representation and abundant NAACLS accreditation/approval experience and will follow a similar timeline for its suggestions. It is not difficult to foresee future changes to the Standards and the accreditation and approval processes resulting from these considerations.
NAACLS always strives to make the accreditation and approval processes the best they can be. To this end, NAACLS is seeking recognition from the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), an accrediting body for accrediting bodies. By subjecting itself to review, NAACLS seeks recognition for its processes and procedures. More importantly, we are seeking information and guidance to improve the processes.
None of this information is new. The point to be taken home is that, although individual projects have endpoints, the process is continuous and ongoing. Continuous improvement is the objective, and continuous review and revision are the mechanisms to reach the objective.
By Jerry A. Phipps, BS, BHS
President, Board of Directors