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Frequently Asked Questions: 2008 Standards for Accreditation

Questions generated by academic programs and site visitors are reflected below by their Standard number along with CAA's responses and/or recommendations for each.

Standard 1.0 | Standard 2.0 | Standard 3.0 | Standard 4.0 | Standard 5.0 | General Areas

Standard 1.0, Administration and Governance

Standard 1.3: Long-Term Plan

Is CAA applying a specific definition of "long-term" related to planning?  How comprehensive does the plan need to be?

The CAA has not established a specific number of years to define "long-term," but does believe that a plan should be longer than one year. The CAA does expect that the time frame used by a program would be consistent with its university's planning period and allow for the planning to be comprehensive. Examples of elements that should be included in the program's long-term plan are described in the implementation language for 2008 Standard 1.3 [PDF].

How will the CAA or site visitors assess the plan?

The CAA expects that the program can document that a long-term plan has been developed and that the administration and faculty are aware of the plan, and this it is used as a guide for quality improvement. The CAA and site visitors are not assessing the specific content of the plan itself. The focus of the standard is on the process of development and evaluation and resulting documentation to support these activities.

Standard 1.5: Evaluation of Program Director

Does there need to be a separate process for review of the program director, or can the institution's regular employee/faculty review process suffice in meeting this standard?

The implementation language states "Regular evaluation of the program director's effectiveness in advancing the goals of the program and institution and in leadership and administration of the program must be documented." Hence, depending on the institution's regular faculty review process, there may or may not need to be a separate review. The results of the review should demonstrate how the assessment informs the effectiveness of the program director in leading and administering the program, in addition to other job responsibilities. In some institutions, there may be an opportunity for faculty to also assess the effectiveness of the program director in leading and advancing the goals of the program.

*Note: As one of the most frequently cited standards for partial or non-compliance in 2012, programs should ensure that the plan for review of the program director's effectiveness is clearly documented.

Standard 1.6: Nondiscrimination Policies

Can you clarify what is meant by "internal" and "external" complaints?

An internal complaint would be one that is using program or university grievance procedures. An external complaint then would be those cases that are initiated outside of the university, e.g., a lawsuit.

Standard 1.7: Public Information

How many methods (e.g. web, catalogue, brochure) should a program utilize to publicize their information?

Programs have flexibility in the methods used to publish program information. It is expected that the mechanisms used are clearly visible and readily accessible to the general public. With the changes that went into effect in January 2013, the CAA requires programs to publish its student achievement information clearly on the graduate program web site and recommends that it be labeled "Student Achievement Data" or "Student Outcome Data."

Further, programs are expected to publish a statement about their accreditation status on their website, as stipulated in CAA's Public Notice of Accreditation Status policy (see Chapter XII, "Informing the Public," in the Accreditation Handbook). Language is suggested in that policy to ensure that programs provide accurate information to the public.

If programs are offered in both professional areas and/or through multiple delivery modes (i.e. residential, satellite, and/or distance education), should student achievement data be differentiated when made publicly available?

Yes. The CAA requires the program publish student achievement data on the program website and to differentiate data specific to the degree program and delivery mode used. Thus, programs that include a distance education or satellite component as part of their accreditation must post all of the student achievement data separately for each modality and each professional area. Reporting should reflect delivery modes only if the program meets the conditions as defined in the CAA's Substantive Change policy and procedures in the Chapter XI, "Expectations of Programs," in the Accreditation Handbook.

*Note: As one of the most frequently cited standards for partial or non-compliance, programs should ensure that they not only provide current, accurate, and readily available public information about the program and/or institution, but that there is a plan for regular review and updating of this information. Programs are expected to update at least the student achievement data to always reflect the most recently completed academic year's data.

Also see questions under Standard 5.3 Program Effectiveness.

Standard 2.0, Faculty

Does 'faculty' include external clinical supervisors?

No, unless these individuals are employees of the university. The CAA defined the term "faculty" in the Standards for Accreditation [PDF] to include tenure-track and non-tenure-track faculty members, lecturers, clinical supervisors, and all other instructional staff members who are employees of the program. (See footnote 2 of the 2008 Standards for Accreditation.)

Thus, faculty does not apply to off-site clinical supervisors, preceptors, internship mentors, or similar personnel who do not hold employment contracts with the institution of higher education.

Standard 2.1: Faculty Qualifications

What credentials must an instructor have to teach a course? Can you clarify the requirement that doctoral faculty must teach academic content?

As indicated in this standard's implementation language, "Academic content is to be taught by doctoral-level faculty except where there is a compelling rationale for instruction by an individual with other professional qualifications that satisfy institutional policy." Programs have the discretion to assign faculty based on credentials and institutional/college expectations. The intent behind Standard 2.1 [PDF] is that all educators, both academic and clinical, are vetted by the program as qualified and competent to fulfill their assignments and responsibilities. When making assignments for academic courses, programs should consider an individual's areas of expertise, degrees, research or practice background, and other variables relevant to the program and institution to ensure appropriate assignments are made that ensures compliance with university expectations. The CAA expects that the skill set (including education, experience, credentials, etc.) of the instructor should be evident and should match course content.

Does "doctoral" mean PhD? How about AuD?

The CAA considers "doctoral" to include any earned doctorate for which the degree has been conferred (e.g., PhD, AuD, ScD); thus an ABD would not be considered as doctoral faculty. Individuals with clinical or research degrees should have responsibilities in the program consistent with the type of degree they hold and be consistent with the expectations of the institution for clinical graduate programs.

As indicated in the implementation language for Standard 2.2 [PDF], CAA expects that the complement of full-time doctoral faculty include individuals who are research-qualified - so having a faculty of all clinical doctorates would not meet the CAA's faculty standards.

Does doctoral level faculty apply only to graduate level teaching?

As the CAA only reviews and accredits graduate programs, this standard can be applied only to the graduate curriculum and faculty.

Do site visitors need to verify supervisors' status by actually seeing ASHA certification cards along with their license information?

No. Prior to 2008, the CAA requested programs to identify clinical supervisors used and their CCC status; however this is no longer the practice. CAA is interested in the process of how the program verifies credentials and when. The program should be able to describe the process used to verify all necessary credentials, i.e., ASHA certification, state license, state teacher certification, etc., of clinical supervisors who supervise its students. The CAA does not require programs to submit evidence of ASHA certification of their supervisors, so site visitors will not review or request materials to verify CCC status of clinical supervisors.

Could you clarify the distinction between the CAA standards and the CFCC standards related to verifying the CCC status of clinical supervisors?

The CAA is interested in the PROCESS employed by the program to verify supervisor credentials (Standard 2.1 [PDF]) and how appropriately supervised clinical hours are tracked to support students' opportunity to pursue ASHA CCC, state licensure, and other credentials (Standard 5.2 [PDF]).

The CFCC's Standards for the Certificate of Clinical Competence define the qualifications for individuals who provide clinical supervision to students for the purposes of ASHA certification. Hours supervised by those meeting CFCC's standards may be counted toward a student's Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC) application.

Standard 2.2 Faculty Sufficiency

Is the faculty to student ratio a factor in determining compliance under the current accreditation standards?

The CAA has not mandated a minimum faculty to student ratio since 1996. However, the issue of having sufficient faculty to meet the teaching, research, and service expectations is still a critical component to ensure quality within the program. It's important to note that faculty size alone does not always correlate to the quality of the students and graduates of the program. CAA acknowledges that faculty expectations vary among universities and considers indicators that may suggest whether the mission and goals are being met by students and the program. Critical factors that the CAA considers in determining compliance with this standard regarding sufficiency of full-time and other faculty, include:

  • Do faculty members have time to meet their program and institutional commitments?
  • Are classes being taught primarily by full-time doctoral faculty in their area of expertise?
  • Are classes offered regularly?
  • Are faculty teaching overloads?
  • Are students graduating on time?
  • Are graduate students accruing the needed clinical hours?
  • Do faculty members achieve tenure or secure promotions?
  • Do students have access to faculty?

Are there specific degrees that constitute "research-qualified" doctoral-level faculty?

The CAA expects that there are research-qualified doctoral-level faculty with full-time appointments on the graduate program faculty. Research-qualified faculty are individuals who hold an earned PhD or EdD to meet the intent of this standard.

*Note: As one of the most frequently cited standards for partial or non-compliance, programs should document their processes used to determine that faculty is sufficient to meet the teaching, research, and service expectations of the program and institution. If there are open faculty lines, the program should document support from the administration to fill needed positions—initiate searches, interview, and hire faculty—within a reasonable time frame.

Standard 3.0, Curriculum (Academic & Clinical Education)

Should undergraduate courses be included in the course listings provided to CAA?

As the CAA's focus for accreditation is on the graduate curriculum, undergraduate courses should only be listed with the accreditation materials if they are also offered for graduate credit.

Standard 3.1 A/B

Are the knowledge, skills, and abilities listed under Standard 3.1 (A and B) [PDF] the same as those listed in the CFCC standards?

The knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) that are the required components of the curriculum under Standard 3.1 are similar to the KSAs in the ASHA certification standards. However, they are not exact. The CAA did re-order and clarify language in some statements and did add a few items that do not appear in the certification standards. Specifically, "Application of the principles of evidence based practice" and "Interaction and interdependence of speech, language, hearing in the discipline of human communication sciences and disorders" appear for both audiology and speech-language pathology (Standards 3.1 A and B). Further, "Genetic bases of hearing and hearing loss" was added for Standard 3.1A (Audiology). However, there are no KSAs in the certification standards that are missing from the accreditation standards.

*Note: As one of the most frequently cited standards for partial or non-compliance, programs should ensure that their curriculum (in audiology for 3.1A and in speech-language pathology for 3.1B) prepares students for the full depth and breadth of their respective scopes of practice.

Standard 3.1 A

Please clarify the clinical expectations for audiology programs (25% of program length vs. 12 months FTE for supervised clinical experiences).

The audiology curriculum should include opportunities for students to earn 12 months full-time equivalent (FTE) of supervised clinical experiences. These activities should comprise approximately 25% of the overall program length. CAA wants to ensure that clinical education and experience were ongoing throughout the graduate program and not limited to only the last year and to ensure that there is an appropriate balance of didactic and clinical activities for the clinical doctoral program.

Standard 3.5 A/B Clinical Supervision

Is it sufficient for a program to provide documentation of its clinical supervision policies and remediation plans to demonstrate compliance with this standard?

As part of the documentation, the program must have written policies that describe how the manner and amount of supervision are determined and adjusted to reflect the competence of each student and the specific needs of the clients/patients served. A universal policy on a set amount of supervision still would need to address how supervision is adjusted to support the student clinician and to protect the patient/client served.

*Note: As one of the most frequently cited standards for partial or non-compliance in 2012, programs should ensure that there is a process for documentation of plans for clinical supervision commensurate with knowledge and skills of each student.

Standard 3.6 A/B Clinical Site Agreements

Is it sufficient to have verbal agreements with external clinical placement sites that the program uses on a less frequent basis?

No. As stated in the implementation language for these standards, "The program must have written agreements with all active external facilities, its policies regarding the identification and ongoing evaluation of external facilities, procedures for selecting and placing students in external clinical sites, and evidence that clinical education in external facilities is monitored by the program to ensure that educational objectives are met."

*Note: As one of the most frequently cited standards for partial or non-compliance in 2013, programs should ensure that there are written agreements with ALL active external sites.

Standard 4.0 Students

Standard 4.1: Student Admissions

Does CAA evaluate whether admission criteria are "appropriate for the degree?"

No. Admission criteria are set by the graduate school or college in each institution and should reflect the expectations for the type and level of degree being offered (master's vs. clinical doctorate). The CAA is interested in the rationale for any differences of admission criteria between the institution and programs to ensure fairness to students.

Standard 5.0 Assessment

Standard 5.1 Formative and Summative Assessments

What is the difference between formative and summative assessments, and what does CAA expect from programs in the area of student learning outcomes?

The CAA added clear definitions in the implementation language [PDF] to distinguish formative (ongoing measures to assess acquisition of knowledge and skills) from summative (comprehensive evaluation of student learning outcomes) assessments, both of which are required. Other requirements of the program are detailed in the implementation language of this standard.

*Note: As one of the most frequently cited standards for partial or non-compliance, programs should ensure that a process has been developed and implemented for the tracking and documentation of summative and formative assessments of student performance, along with a documented process for the implementation of remediation plans.

Standard 5.2 Student Progress Documentation

*Note: As one of the most frequently cited standards for partial or non-compliance in 2013, programs should ensure that there is a formal process in place for the tracking and documentation of student progress toward the degree.

Does the program still need to keep track of supervisor qualifications, e.g. CCC status?

Yes. If the program's mission and goals include preparing students for entry into professional practice and thereby to earn credentials to do so, then there must be evidence of supervisor information consistent with those requirements. Although CAA does not require programs to provide CCC status of clinical supervisors as part of its review, the program still needs to track this type of data to support a student's application for ASHA certification along with clinical hours supervised by these individuals. Similarly, if state licensing or teacher certification procedures require supervisors to hold comparable credentials, programs would need to monitor that consistent with those expectations.

Do site visitors verify or check student hours when they review student files on-site?

CAA site visitors are reviewing student files to ensure that there is a tracking mechanism in place to document student acquisition of knowledge and skills, based on the program's stated mission and goals, and to determine if it is consistently used. Site visitors are not verifying the clinical hours for each student to meet credentials.

Standard 5.3: Program Effectiveness

*Note: As one of the most frequently cited standards for partial or non-compliance, programs should ensure that they conduct ongoing assessments of program effectiveness and use those results for program improvement.

If a university offers accredited programs in both audiology and speech-language pathology, should they provide both sets of student achievement data, one for each program area of study?

Yes. The CAA examines data specific to each professional area's program to support compliance with the accreditation standards, so it is important to be able to see the distinct data. Additionally, if the program is offered via multiple modalities, e.g., distance education, those data would need to be collected and analyzed separately to ensure program effectiveness in each modality.

If a program is submitting an application for initial accreditation (e.g., a new doctoral audiology program), then it may not have full sets of student achievement data for the program. If the program has not graduated 3 years of students, it would then leave the question blank and provide a written explanation.

Does CAA have different expectations for student achievement when a program is offered through multiple delivery modes (i.e. residential, satellite, distance education)?

No. The CAA applies the same benchmarks for student achievement regardless of the mode of educational delivery. The CAA requests data specific to each delivery mode be provided in response to this standard, which allows the effectiveness of each delivery mode that comprise the program's accreditation to be verified. The CAA determined that programs should be held to the same benchmark and thereby not disadvantaging students participating in one component over another. CAA, however, will assess whether the threshold for each student achievement measure has been met for the program in its entirety (all modalities) to determine compliance with the standard.

When reporting data to the CAA regarding the Praxis examination pass rates, should programs report results of students' first attempt? Or is it expected to report only the final outcome of the test-takers efforts?

The CAA expects programs to report and publish student achievement data for the last 3 completed academic years. When reporting the Praxis examination pass rates, programs are required to report results only once for test-takers who took the exam multiple times in a single examination reporting period. This is stated in the implementation language of Standard 5.3 as well as Standard 1.7.

The CAA does not require programs provide the results from first-time test takers, but the program may collect and analyze these data to support its own self-assessment activities. There is value in the program considering those data, and its ability to determine what improvements can be made as part of the overall ongoing evaluation of the program's effectiveness.

What should a program do if test-takers' pass rate on the Praxis examination, as averaged over the three most recently completed academic years, falls below the CAA-established threshold?

Pass rates on the Praxis examination are one measure of a program's success in the area of student achievement. As Standard 5.3 [PDF] states, the program must use the results of its assessments towards continuous program improvement. If the program's pass rates as averaged over the three most recently completed academic years fall below the CAA-established threshold, then the program should undergo further self-assessment to determine what may be causing the poor performance, and look to key indicators such as curriculum, faculty qualifications, clinical offerings, and overall assessment of opportunities for students to gain the requisite knowledge and skills needed for entry into independent practice. Once key indicators are identified, a plan for additional review, needed modifications to the program, and further follow-up should be developed.

On a related note, the program may wish to consider the timing of when most test-takers are sitting for the exam, and whether that may be a contributing factor to why test-takers are not passing the Praxis examination. ETS [PDF] developed and validated the examination to be taken at a point when the test-taker was expected to have acquired the appropriate knowledge and skills needed to enter independent professional practice. If timing is determined to be a factor, the program may wish to review and modify its instructions to students and graduates as to optimal timing to take the exam, e.g., after all course work and most of a student's clinical experiences have been completed.

When is the best time to collect employment data?

It is entirely up to the program, based on data collection and/or alumni survey policies in place at the program or institution level. Some programs find that it is easiest to collect employment data (sometimes referred to as job placement information) at the time of graduation because response rates decline as time passes. However, the implementation language indicates that programs are to report the employment rate one year post-graduation for its graduates, so graduates have one year to secure employment or pursue further education. Collecting employment data before the full year has elapsed may not provide an accurate picture of graduates' abilities to secure employment.

Also, CAA does not prescribe the format or mechanism for data collection, thus does not require that data collection occur through traditional/formal survey methods or that data be collected at a single point in time. Some programs prefer to collect information throughout students' final semester and during the first year post-graduation, updating data as each individual secures employment or acceptance in an advanced education program. Such an approach allows programs to present more accurate data, as some students secure employment or admission to an education program before graduating and others may take additional time after graduation to do so.

Should the data submitted for reporting student achievement represent the same student cohort?

Reporting the required student achievement data is not intended to reflect the same student cohort for each of the 3 outcome measures. Data reported for employment rates may be for an earlier group/year than the data reported for program completion rates (e.g., employment rates may be reported in 2013–2014 for the 2012–2013 graduates but the program completion rates reported in 2013-2014 for the 2013-2014 graduates).

Standard 5.4: Faculty Evaluation

Should a program conduct evaluations of faculty members in a certain fashion? What if the program does not have faculty evaluate the program director?

The Standards for Accreditation indicate the need for an evaluation process to occur, but do not prescribe exactly what that process must include. As long as some form of feedback mechanism is developed, implementation can be documented, affected individuals are aware of the process and outcomes, and the evaluations are conducted on a regular schedule, then that would meet the intent of standard.

Does the evaluation of ALL faculty include tenured faculty, even if the university has a union or collective bargaining agreements that would prevent/limit evaluations of faculty?

Yes. The CAA would expect the program to describe whatever manner is available and appropriate to support program goals and improvement. The program must describe the mechanism for regular evaluation of its faculty by program leadership in accordance with institutional policy and guidelines; if no formal evaluations are being done the program must indicate the circumstances.

*Note: As one of the most frequently cited standards for partial or non-compliance in 2012, programs should ensure that there is a documented process for evaluation of faculty members, that all faculty members are aware of the process, and that results of these evaluations or assessment are used to improve the program.

General Areas

How does a program determine if 50% of the program is distance? If all courses could be distance, but don't have to be, is that considered 100% even if students typically take 25% of their courses through distance technologies?

The percentage is calculated based on what the program offers, even if the students can take traditional courses. This is described in CAA's Substantive Change policy in Chapter XI, "Expectations of Programs," in the Accreditation Handbook.

Can/should there be a separate application for traditional program and one offered via distance education?

In the Higher Education Data System (HES), questions requiring responses from programs offering distance education or via satellite campuses will be visible for completion only if they in fact meet the 50% rule as described in the CAA's Substantive Change policy and procedures in Chapter XI, "Expectations of Programs," in the Accreditation Handbook. If adding a new modality, programs are expected to notify the Accreditation Office at least 5 months in advance of the submission date.

Please direct any additional questions about the CAA's Standards for Accreditation to

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