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How does CAA use the student outcome data that programs are required to report annually?
CAA requires graduate programs, through Standard 5.3, to conduct regular and ongoing assessments of program effectiveness and use the results for continuous improvement. There are many measures that a program may use to assess its effectiveness in meeting its mission and goals. CAA requires that programs, at a minimum, use the following student achievement measures: program completion rates, Praxis examination pass rates, and employment rates. These were chosen because they are widely recognized national measures of program success and are specifically suggested by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) as examples of student achievement measures.
In order to determine compliance with this standard, CAA reviews each program individually (not as compared to any other program or other program's data) and assesses not only the student outcome measures but, as important, how the program uses the results for continuous quality improvement. Furthermore, CAA assesses what policies, procedures, and plans a program puts in place as a result of CAA's assessment of these outcome measures.
In terms of the specific student outcome data submitted by programs, CAA looks for the following:
- For each individual student achievement measure, does the 3-year average meet CAA-established thresholds for performance?
- If not, what is the program doing about it?
- Have program administrators put in place a remediation or action plan and is it being implemented?
- Is progress or improvement being made in meeting the thresholds?
Every 3 years (or more often, as warranted), the CAA reviews its own requirements for student achievement measures as listed in Standard 5.3. These are reviewed along with the established program performance benchmarks on those related measures-for accuracy, currency, and appropriateness. To aid in the review, aggregate data are compiled on accredited programs' performance in meeting the thresholds and are reviewed along with the results of extensive research on current benchmarks in use by other accreditors, best practices in the areas of performance assessment and outcomes measurement, recommendations by the USDE, and national performance averages and trends. If a large number of programs have not met CAA-established thresholds, CAA will delve more carefully into possible reasons that may account for programs' not meeting the standard; CAA then will determine if the measure itself is still appropriate or if the threshold is set at an appropriate level.
In addition, CAA requires programs to publish on their respective websites data for the three student achievement measures required in Standard 1.7 for the designated time-period. This effort is to ensure that student achievement data are easily and readily accessible and are clearly visible to the public. CAA looks for the following:
CAA is recognized as an accrediting agency by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education (USDE). Both agencies' recognition requirements require CAA to consider student achievement data, or the transparency of those data, to ensure the accreditation of quality programs and availability of program information for the public.
A final note: It is important to remember that while programs are required to report on these specific student achievement measures, they are just ONE piece of information that is used in the determination of compliance with CAA Standard 5.0 (Assessment). In fact, there are many other pieces of information that programs provide to assist in assessing a program's performance. These include evaluations of faculty, processes used in curricular reviews and strategic planning, and ongoing assessment of the program's ability to meet its stated program mission and goals.