Strengthening Academic Program Viability Through Strategic Development
The Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA) accredits graduate education programs that prepare individuals to enter professional practice in audiology and/or speech-language pathology. The intention of academic accreditation is to promote excellence in educational preparation while assuring the public that graduates of accredited programs have had the opportunity to acquire a core set of knowledge and skills required for independent professional practice.
Accreditation serves the public interest by ensuring that a program has met at least threshold standards in areas such as curriculum, faculty, and student services. More importantly, it provides accountability by evaluating a program's success in meeting its mission and accomplishing its own stated student learning outcomes.
Accredited programs that are threatened with or targeted for downsizing or closure (and that have no or limited standards citations ) should promote the value of accreditation to their university administrators as an external validation of quality and a rationale for maintaining the program. Issues to highlight may include references to the following accreditation standards as some examples of the quality of the program:
- Standard 1.2 - The program's mission and goals are consistent with CAA standards for entry into professional practice (3.1A and/or 3.1B) and with the mission of the institution.
- The mission statements of the institution, college, and program must be presented as evidence to support compliance with this standard. The program's faculty must regularly evaluate the congruence of program and institutional goals and the extent to which the goals are achieved.
- Standard 1.3 - The program develops and implements a long-term strategic plan.
- The plan must be congruent with the mission of the institution, have the support of the university administration, and reflect the role of the program within the community. Components of a plan may include long-term program goals, specific measurable objectives, strategies for attainment, a schedule for analysis, and a mechanism for regular evaluation of the plan itself and of progress in meeting the plan's objectives. The plan and the results of the regular evaluation of the plan and its implementation must be shared with faculty, students, staff, alumni, and other interested parties.
- Standard 1.4 - The program's faculty has authority and responsibility for the program.
- The institution must indicate by its administrative structure that the program's faculty is recognized as a body that can initiate, implement, and evaluate decisions affecting all aspects of the professional education program, including the curriculum. The program's faculty has reasonable access to higher levels of administration. The program must describe how substantive decisions regarding the academic and clinical programs are initiated, developed, and implemented by the program faculty. Programs without independent departmental status must be particularly clear in describing these aspects of the organizational structure.
- Standard 5.3 - The program conducts regular and ongoing assessments of program effectiveness and uses the results for continuous improvement.
- The program must document the procedures followed in evaluating the quality, currency, and effectiveness of its graduate program and the process by which it engages in systematic self-study. The documentation must indicate the mechanisms used to evaluate each program component, the schedule on which the evaluations are conducted and analyzed, and the program changes and/or improvements that have resulted from assessments. The program collects and evaluates data on its effectiveness from multiple sources (e.g., students, alumni, faculty, employers, off-site supervisors or preceptors, community members, persons served). The data must include students' and graduates' evaluations of courses and clinical education.
- Results of the assessments must be used to plan and implement program improvements that are consistent with the program's mission and goals.