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The NAACLS News

Your home base for all NAACLS announcements, news and special features

Category Archives: CEO’s Corner

by Dianne M. Cearlock, PhD and CEO and Mark Spence, Volunteer Services Manager

The year 2020 brought a number of “first time ever” events to NAACLS. The COVID-19 pandemic really intensified in March in the United States. Schools at all levels closed their doors to in-person education and either suspended education entirely or shifted to online formats for delivery. NAACLS accredited and approved programs, whether sponsored by educational or medical institutions, experienced waves of changes similar to K-12 schools and healthcare clinics and services. Drastic actions were taken to support the health of communities. All the while the need for new and competent graduates in the clinical laboratory sciences and other healthcare services exploded. Clearly, it was in the best interest of communities nationwide to keep NAACLS programs turning out clinical laboratory professionals to staff clinical laboratories, perform testing, and help stressed healthcare systems answer the pandemic challenges.

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  • Comments Off on CEO’s Corner: Virtual Site Visits – NAACLS Treads New Waters
  • Posted under CEO's Corner

The NAACLS Review Committee on Accredited Programs (RCAP) and Program Approval Review Committee (PARC) met on July 12-14, 2017 at the beautiful and inspirational Hyatt Regency Tamaya in Albuquerque, NM for the annual face-to-face meetings.

Hyatt Regency Tamaya

The committees meet several times a year, once face-to face, to review accreditation and approval materials, program progress reports, data regarding programs meeting NAACLS’ benchmarks for performance, and other relevant topics. The committees made recommendations that will go before the NAACLS Board of Directors in September.

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by Dianne M. Cearlock, PhD, Chief Executive Officer

To meet accreditation and approval standards, NAACLS requires programs to post outcomes for certification exam pass rates, graduation rates, and placement rates in a location that is easily accessible by the public. There are multiple reasons for this requirement.

The first reason is that NAACLS is committed to transparency and fair practices. Current and prospective students, like many consumers, engage in “comparison shopping” for many purchases, and they expect to have information readily available. The selection of an education program is one of the most expensive of all life’s “purchases” and has a profound effect on most people’s lives. The information needed to make an informed choice should be available, accurate, and up-to-date. By posting of recent outcomes in a readily accessible location, programs assist prospective students, employers, and other stakeholders in making critical decisions about education and hiring. Information that is not posted, confusingly presented, deeply buried in the netherworld of the web, inaccurate, out-of-date, in the smallest font size possible, or some other means of obfuscation is in violation of NAACLS standards and fails to adequately serve the public.

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by Dianne M. Cearlock, PhD, Chief Executive Officer

The year 2015 was notable as a period during which higher education accreditation was the target of criticism by the federal administration and lawmakers. While the criticisms were focused on regional or national accreditors of institutions, particularly those with “gatekeeping” privileges relative to student loans and grants, programmatic accreditors also felt the sting.

To review, NAACLS is a programmatic accreditor that accredits or approves post secondary programs in nine clinical laboratory careers. NAACLS is recognized (akin to accreditation) by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) but not by the U.S Department of Education (USDE). Withdrawing from USDE in favor of CHEA recognition occurred in 2001 when, after deliberation, the NAACLS Board of Directors decided that the regulatory burden of USDE recognition was becoming prohibitive and that the commitment of CHEA to education innovation better matched the character and needs of programs in the clinical laboratory sciences. With that change, NAACLS relinquished status as a “gatekeeper” for federal student loans and grants and was awarded recognition by CHEA.

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by Dianne M. Cearlock, PhD, Chief Executive Officer

NAACLS recently received a few inquiries regarding external recognition of accreditors by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the United States Department of Education (USDE). Fifteen years ago, the NAACLS Board of Directors voted to pursue CHEA recognition and to voluntarily withdraw from USDE recognition. This decision was made following vigorous and substantive discussion by the Board, along with extensive data-gathering by NAACLS on the impact the decision could have on programs and students, and the effects on the NAACLS Standards and policies. Much of the discussion centered on the future direction of accreditation, the impact of accreditors acting as Title IV gatekeepers, and the intersection of NAACLS’ mission with external recognition. (The announcement of the Board’s decision and a review of the discussion and factors involved are available at www.naacls.org in the NAACLS News archives, Volume 74.) 

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Dianne M. Cearlock, PhD, Chief Executive Officer

This is the year that NAACLS is transitioning to implementation of the 2012 Standards. Although it has been two years since the NAACLS Board of Directors adopted the new Standards, questions about interpretation of the Standards, what constitutes adequate documentation of compliance, setting appropriate benchmarks for outcomes, and other details emerge. Language, spoken or written, is a tricky business, and it is important to nail down the details. Questions are posed by program officials, NAACLS review committee and Board members, and staff. Several examples were deliberated at the Board of Directors meeting held recently.

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by Dianne M. Cearlock, PhD, Chief Executive Officer

Most program officials are probably familiar with the roles and responsibilities of site visitors and many are aware of the activities of the Review Committee on Accredited Programs (RCAP) and the Program Approval Review Committee (PARC). But how many know of the work of the Quality Assurance Committee? The Quality Assurance (QA) Committee is a standing committee of the NAACLS Board of Directors and is mandated to meet prior to every Board meeting. The overarching goals of this committee are 1) to support an ongoing quality enhancement program that addresses quality in the accreditation and approval processes, and 2) to identify, prioritize, and resolve problems indentified in those processes. Membership on this committee includes representation from all facets of the NAACLS review processes such that all steps in program reviews come under scrutiny before final decisions are made. Achieving this goal takes a village of NAACLS volunteers and staff.

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by Dianne M. Cearlock, PhD, Chief Executive Officer

A great assessment plan is the program director’s best marketing tool. Assessment may seem like just another responsibility of meeting NAACLS Standards, and that is true, but the savvy program director uses the assessment plan for so much more. The intended use of assessment is continuous quality improvement of the program but a great assessment plan also feeds directly into a successful marketing strategy for the program.

The 2012 NAACLS Standards require all programs to have a systematic assessment plan that measures the effectiveness of the program and uses the findings for continuous refinement of the program’s curriculum, education delivery methods, and other processes. Several quantitative outcome measures must be included in the assessment plan including certification/licensure pass rates, attrition, graduation, and pass rates. The use of other measures such as the results of capstone projects, faculty feedback, exit or final examinations, exit interviews with graduates, student and graduate professional leadership, impact of the program on local and regional healthcare, etc., are optional (Standard 2, I, a-c). Programs should align the assessment plan and outcomes measures used with the institutional and program missions. In other words, the assessment plan should be an ongoing process to document that programs are fulfilling their missions and that of the sponsoring institution and, if not, to make changes to the program consistent with achieving program and institutional missions.

NAACLS established benchmarks for several quantitative outcome measures including certification pass rates of ≥75% on BOC examinations, and graduate and placement rates of ≥70%. All of these are reported annually using a rolling 3-year average and, when that does not occur, further analyses of the program may be required (Standards Compliance Guide). But it is vitally important not to let these quantitative measures control the “story” of a program. A program, its students, and its faculty are so much more than the sum of its numbers. And as important and compelling as certification/licensure pass rates are to those of us in the field, is recitation of those statistics, no matter how wonderful a program’s graduates and pass rates are, really “sexy” to Chairs, Deans, Presidents, and CEOs? It’s doubtful. And that is how a great assessment program, linked to the institution and program missions, and open to innovation by program officials, connects with marketing.

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by Dianne M. Cearlock, PhD

Chief Executive Officer

NAACLS’ mission is: “NAACLS is committed to being the premier international agency for accreditation and approval of educational programs in the clinical laboratory sciences and related health professions through the involvement of expert volunteers and its commitment to public service.” To meet the commitment to public service, NAACLS needs to keep up a communication flow with members of the public to solicit opinions, ideas, and concerns. Only through effective communication can NAACLS stay aware of the needs of the public and the services NAACLS needs to provide. NAACLS uses various approaches to foster this communication.

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NAACLS posts accreditation and approval decisions:

In much the same way that NAACLS accredits or approves programs in the clinical laboratory sciences, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) recognizes programmatic/specialized accreditors, including NAACLS. The CHEA standards, revised in 2010, require accrediting bodies to have “policies or procedures, developed in consultation with institutions or programs, to inform the public of the basis for final decisions to grant or reaffirm accreditation and, in the case of denial or withdrawal of accreditation, to provide specific reasons for the decision accompanied by a response, related to the final decision, from the institution or program.” The purpose of this requirement is to ensure accountability of Board decisions and transparency to the public.

In compliance, NAACLS posts the most recent accreditation and approval decisions made by the Board of Directors on its website. For each program that went through accreditation or approval review in a given cycle, NAACLS posts the program type, institution, Standard(s) cited when applicable, award, next review date(s), and Program Director. Programs that have been assigned probationary status have the option to submit a written response that is then also made available to the public by posting on the website. (NAACLS reserves the right not to publish responses that are inappropriate or inflammatory and to append an Editor’s Note if there are factual errors contained in responses.)

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