Accreditation Evaluation Teams-The Comprehensive Visit

Published in January 1999 edition of Accreditation Notes

Serving on an evaluation team for the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your professional life. This conclusion is reached by most of those who serve on teams visiting ACCJC member institutions regardless of whether they are veterans of the process or "rookies".

Dr. Joseph Gonzalez, a Professor of History at Moorpark College in the Ventura County Community College District, recently wrote: "I have always stressed to my Modern History students that they would do well to emulate the professional work ethic of the British Expeditionary Force of the First World War. Their motto was `We'll do it. What is it?' I did not expect to see that level of devotion to duty and pride of craft in accrediting circles, but I have, in fact lived it. I have seen educators commit to the mission of excellence they pursue, living their profession in service to it, never forgetting whom they serve. Serving on a team is a grand experience and one which I seek to have at every opportunity."

Dr. Gonzalez's statements demonstrate the essence of the evaluation experience in the process of accreditation. As a voluntary, non-governmental process, it depends on a cadre of volunteer professionals who serve as independent appraisers of what a college's self study says about what is has, what it does, and what it achieves.

By offering insights based on analysis of what the college has written about itself and in conducting an onsite evaluation, teams call attention to issues of institutional effectiveness. This activity assures Commission members that the college has been responsive to all of the recommendations made by previous teams as well as to all the directions given by the Commission. Teams also assure the Commission that, in its continuing pursuit of excellence, the institution has developed sound evaluation and planning procedures concerning assessment of student outcomes. Having received information from the teams in the form of a report, the Commission can then deliberate and reach an informed decision on the accredited status of an institution as well as on the recommendations to be made for continued improvement.

Team members are selected from a roster of experienced educators who have offered their services as evaluators and who have been trained by commission staff in workshops held twice a year. They are expected to provide impartial and experienced evaluation and to address any special concerns expressed by the college. A typical team will be made up of individuals whose expertise lies in one of the many aspects of the typical college community. Thus, the team will include faculty members; a chief executive officer; academic and student services administrators; a trustee; a business officer; and an individual with experience in planning, research, and institutional evaluation. Teams reflect the diversity of the college and are a balance of experienced and first-time evaluators.

Team members are evaluated on their performance by team chairs and these evaluations are reported to the Executive Director. Evaluations become part of the continuous Commission effort at providing quality assurance to the public.

Experienced evaluators who have gained a reputation as leaders in accreditation issues are invited to serve as team chairs. They are trained by Commission staff to provide the leadership necessary for successful completion of a comprehensive visit. The team chair is the Commission's representative; the leader of the team, manager, and spokesperson; and, with in-put from team members, the author of the report to the Commission. To a large extent, the success of an evaluation visit depends on the quality of this leadership. The team leader, too, is evaluated as part of the on-going process of quality assurance.

The process of accreditation used in this country is unique and remarkable and it relies on the commitment of professional educators for its success. Peer review continues to be at the center of American accreditation. The Commission always has an interest in recruiting new evaluation team members. If you are interested in being a part of this effort, give us a call to receive the necessary application form.