Fall 2017 Articles
Introducing Our New Site Visit Coordinator and The Visitor Newsletter
Many of you may have already had the opportunity to be introduced to me in your roles as a site team chair, team member, or CACREP liaison. For those of you that haven’t yet connected with me I am the new Assistant Director of Accreditation and Site Visit Coordinator. Prior to coming to CACREP, I worked in government relations, grassroots advocacy, and political action committees for the past six years. Before beginning my career, I completed my masters in school counseling at The George Washington University. I have been here at CACREP for almost four months now and have never been more excited to be part of an organization. The staff are all truly caring people and all of you have been extremely friendly. I look forward to continuing to improve processes, training, and communication making them assets to our team members. As part of that effort we are rolling out the newsletter that you are reading now. We hope it will be a source of ongoing information and engagement for all of our team members and chairs. In this newsletter you will find information on policies related to multi-site visits as well as a featured piece from Dr. Marty Jencius based on his experiences leading multi-site visits. Also in this newsletter you will find other useful information for going on site visits. Please take some time to read through our scenario and send me a response which will be featured in the next newsletter. If you ever have any questions please feel free to reach out to me or Robert.
by Robert Urofsky, Ph.D., Vice-President of Accreditation and Training
Many CACREP accreditation site visitors’ experiences to-date have involved reviewing one or more counseling specialties offered in a fairly traditional in-person format at the main campus of a college or university. Increasingly, however, colleges and universities are offering counseling programs at multiple campus locations or in a variety of delivery formats. The proliferation of counseling programs across sites or multiple delivery formats raises a number of challenges from an accreditation review perspective. To assist reviewers in unpacking these challenges, the CACREP Board developed and has refined over time a policy addressing counseling programs offered at multiple sites. In this article, I examine the components and applicability of this policy. Marty Jencius’ article, included in this newsletter, offers concrete suggestions for site visitors to consider in conducting site visits involving multiple sites and/or delivery formats.
The following are just a few questions that arise when considering counseling programs offered at multiple locations and/or in multiple delivery formats:
- Which specializations are offered at each location or in each delivery format?
- How much of the curriculum is offered at each location or in each delivery format?
- Are the curricula the same?
- How much consistency across the locations is there in terms of program operations, such as budgets, leadership, admissions, resources, and program evaluation?
- Who delivers the program at each location?
- Can students move across locations or delivery formats when completing their program of study?
- How do the transcripts read?
- Are practicum and/or internship sections taught at multiple locations and, if so, are there equivalent support resources available?
An overarching question concerning a program offered at multiple sites is whether it is the same program being offered at multiple sites and/or in multiple delivery formats, or whether there are enough substantive differences to warrant the need for a separate accreditation review? A preliminary decision on this larger question is generally made during the initial review of the program, prior to a site visit. The initial review, however, is a ‘paper’ review of the program and the site team’s findings on site may warrant a revisiting of this decision. So let’s take a look at the parts of CACREP Policy 1.o – Programs Offered at Multiple Sites (http://cacrepdev.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/2016-Policy-Document-July-2017.pdf).
The first part of the policy addresses the applicability of the policy to programs, indicating that the policy is not intended to address the periodic offering of courses at extension sites, although, as noted, these sites should be included in the site visit review. The policy goes on the specify that its applicability is to determine whether or not programs offered at multiple locations and/or in different delivery formats can be included in a single application and be reviewed as the same program offered across sites and delivery formats, or whether there needs to be a separate application and accreditation review for the different sites/formats, necessitating appropriate distinctions for the program options. The threshold criteria for the applicability of the policy is when 50% or more of the curriculum is offered at one or more alternative sites or via distance technologies; thus, the applicability of the policy to situations in which the curriculum is offered both in-person and using distance technologies.
When a program offers 50% or more of the curriculum at multiple locations and/or via multiple delivery formats, nine standards-related conditions must be satisfied in order for these to be included in a single application and accreditation review:
- The program, regardless of where it is offered, operates under a single institutional budget and reports to a single academic unit leader who oversees all counseling programs offered by the institution (Standard 1.C).
- The program, regardless of where it is offered, requires completion of identical curricular requirements, culminates in the same degree title, and provides identical entries on student transcripts (Standard 1.B).
- The program, regardless of where it is offered, demonstrates that core faculty across sites share in the program curriculum development (Standard 1.Y).
- The program, regardless of where it is offered, demonstrates access to appropriate resources at each site where the program is offered (Standards 1.F, 1.G, 1.H, and 1.I).
- Students are admitted and advised under the same procedures and processes, regardless of which site they attend (Standard 1.L, 1.M and 1.P).
- The program, regardless of where it is offered, follows identical student retention and dismissal procedures (Standard 1.N(7))
- The program’s comprehensive assessment plan applies to all sites, regardless of where the program is offered, and the same assessment procedures are used at each site. Data are reviewed at each site individually and in aggregate across sites (Section 4).
- The program demonstrates that regardless of the site where students complete coursework that the number of credit hours delivered by noncore faculty at each site does not exceed the number of credit hours delivered by core faculty (1.S).
- The FTE student-to-faculty ratio is met at each site (Standard 1.T).
These conditions in aggregate address the equivalency of experiences for students across the locations and/or delivery formats. Even when parts of the curriculum are offered periodically at different locations, these standards-related considerations are important for reviewers to consider. The difference, however, is that not all 9 conditions need to be determined to be met. In situations where the multiple sites policy is applicable, if all 9 conditions are determined by reviewers to not be met for any of the locations and/or formats, then the CACREP Board would deny accreditation to the entire program. The program could choose to remove site(s) and/or delivery format(s) from the current review, providing that appropriate distinctions between sites and/or formats are made in program materials, such as transcripts, and students and the public are made aware of what sites and/or formats are included in any subsequent accreditation decision.
For reviews involving multiple sites and/or delivery formats, site teams should plan to comprehensively review each location and/or delivery format. In some instances, the sites are in fairly close proximity to one another, enabling the site visitors to travel among locations during the course of the visit. In instances where the sites are located a considerable distance from one another, the team chair, in consultation with the program liaison and site team members, will need to determine a structure that allows for adequate review of all sites and/or delivery formats. This may necessitate that one or more team members travel to and be based in another location for all or part of the site visit, communicating with team members at other locations throughout the visit, and/or that alternative meeting and review technologies be employed to facilitate the review. The guiding principle in play here is that the structure and format of the visit afford the team the ability to thoroughly and adequately review all sites and/or delivery formats.
Lastly, site teams should clearly convey their findings in relation to a program’s distribution across sites and/or delivery formats in both the Site Team’s Report and the Site Team’s Recommendation to the CACREP Board. This could include, among other things, a description of the program’s structure, indicators of the team’s findings in relation to the multiple sites policy conditions, and indicators where individual standards are not met at one or more sites or in a particular delivery format.
Conducting Multi-Site Visits
by Marty Jencius, Ph.D., Kent State University
Like many of you, I have had the privilege of being a CACREP Team Chair and have had great team members with which to work. Nothing demands more of a team and the team chair than being on an accreditation visit with multiple sites. Multiple site accreditation visits challenge your skills of coordinating people and process. I have been team chair on a handful of multiple site visits and have learned a great deal from the experience and the teams.
Programs with multiple sites often mean you are separated from team members who may be a great distance from the home campus. You are trying to accomplish what might feel like three or four separate accreditations simultaneously squeezed into the same 2 and 1/2 days. Your team members may be placed across the region, across the state, or across multiple states, so the keys to success with multiple site visits include pre-visit preparation, onsite coordination, and technology use.
Review the Self-study and addendum: This is a given for any accreditation visit, but multiple-site accreditation self-studies are more complicated, more eyes will be looking over the self-study (with more opinions). As a result, you will have more questions and discussion, so you need to be on top of any concerns early on. Try to note as many of the team member’s concerns as possible before you get to the site, reducing surprises and new issues so you can focus on data gathering while on site.
Share the problem: A multiple-site accreditation visit might seem like a big task, and it is, but rely on your team and your CACREP liaison. If you discover logistic problems with the multiple sites, work with the liaison and discuss it with your team for solutions.
Schedules: Work with the CACREP liaison early in the process to establish a schedule for each site that addresses the scope of the accreditation visit. Make sure to build in coordinated work time with each location. For the whole team to meet and work you may have to consider how to synchronize meeting times and meal times across locations.
Early communication with all members: Since you are working with a larger team and trying to have contact with each of them before the visit, you should establish communications with each member early on. One general email to the whole group and then try to work out in advance a Doodle calendar for a group phone call to discuss impressions of the self-study. It may be unlikely that you will have the whole group in one call, so from your calendar options you may have to have two or three smaller group check-ins based on members’ availability.
Itineraries: Get your team members’ flight itineraries early to assist your CACREP Liaison with transportation and to help you plan out your Sunday evening meeting time. With more team members comes the higher chance that there will be delays. Having team members contact you in the case of flight delays or cancellations permits you and the CACREP liaison to make changes in the schedule.
Arrive early: If you can take an early flight to arrive at your site, do so. Getting to the site soon on the first day will help you establish logistics and clarify your thoughts on where and when the team’s work will be done.
CACREP liaison: Your CACREP liaison plays a more significant role with multiple sites as they are often the eyes and ears of their program and its various locations. Check with them more than regularly to assess how they feel the visit has been going at the various locations. They can also help you get the word out to site representatives on any changes or concerns.
Daily calls: Work into your site schedules daily whole-team phone calls for check-in and to look for broader themes for the final report. Pay attention to time zone differences and daylight savings time changes; both were unanticipated problems on one visit I chaired. Limit the time of the call but make it purposeful. The easiest way to do a group call is to use one of the free conference call systems, like freeconferencecall.com, uberconference.com, Google Hangouts, or skype.com. Have directions on how to do conference calls and send to members as part of the schedule information you share pre-visit.
Depend on your local team: There is a more significant amount of coordination that occurs for multiple-site, large-team visits, as team chair you need to rely heavily on your local team members to manage the primary site issues while you coordinate efforts with remote team members. As such you may want to make sure you have a seasoned team member for the local site, leaving you to handle the coordination of the remote sites if necessary.
Manage team members’ conflict with sites: The more members, the more personalities. On occasion, you will have an enthusiastic team member who may be overly demanding of the site with last minute requests. Encourage your team members to bring concerns to you before they escalate at the remote location. Use your team to help address the necessity of last minute requests, other ways to find the information needs, and that the team is making standards-based requests. Applying ‘the Stripling Rule’ can often normalize the team member’s projective approach to a standard.
Personal laptop: To be a fully contributing member of the team requires team members to bring a working laptop for their use and to contribute to the report.
Text messaging: Although it seems like this may be invasive to share phone numbers for texting, it has become the norm over the years. Text messaging can be an easy way for your team to confirm flight arrivals and delays, raise questions on the road, and let you know they need to speak with you.
Synchronous writing: I have converted the standards to a Google Doc for team report writing purposes. Other file-sharing systems do not allow for synchronous editing and guarantees that the file you are working on is the most up-to-date version. The challenge with Google Docs is getting some less tech-skilled team members accustomed to using the system. One site team I worked with had multiple locations but arrived at the main campus every evening for dinner and work. Our group of six members sat around one table and worked collectively and in smaller groups with assigned parts to script the report into one document we could see at the same time. Using a Google Doc with multiple distant location sites, every member gets an opportunity to contribute to the report and bring their strength to the team. Save copies of your working report often, so there is little lost in case of an accidental delete. For remote team writers, you can even use a chat message system in the Google suite to respond to real-time questions.
The challenge with synchronous writing is getting all of your team members up to speed on the platform. I suggest that you set up a shared folder early on with some of the support documents and make sure everyone can access it and use it before the trip.
Multiple-site accreditation visits can be challenging. For me they are energizing as they call on a skill set I enjoy using. I have been lucky to be surrounded by great teams who have made them a successful experience for the site and me.
Three P’s of a Successful Site Visit
by Robert Urofsky, Ph.D., Vice-President of Accreditation and Training
Site visits are a critical component of the CACREP accreditation review process. Site visitors are the eyes and ears of the CACREP Board, visiting a site in order to validate a counseling program’s self-study and provide met and not met determinations for the CACREP Standards. During the last several years, CACREP has experienced significant growth in the number of applicant programs and a concomitant growth in the number of site visit accreditation reviews. Accompanying this growth have been profound changes in the role of accreditation in the counseling profession, including: the establishment of linkages in several states between accreditation and licensure for professional counselors; requirements in some states for counseling program accreditation; and establishment of eligibility requirements that include graduation from a CACREP-accredited counseling program for participation in or hiring in certain federal programs (e.g., the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare system) and for future eligibility for the National Certified Counselor (NCC) credential.
These and changes like them have changed the overall context in which CACREP accreditation site visits are occurring. While CACREP accreditation has traditionally been viewed as a voluntary, peer review process, this is not necessarily how it currently is being viewed by some programs and institutions. Some counseling programs that are in states that have or are considering a CACREP accreditation requirement, or are located in an area in which there are a number of CACREP-accredited counseling programs, may be viewing CACREP accreditation as more of a mandatory requirement and/or high stakes accreditation review. This naturally will influence the way the site team and the accreditation site review are viewed and received on campus. Attending to the three P’s below can help site visitors effectively navigate this context and conduct a successful site visit review.
Preparation underlies all aspects of a successful visit. An adequate review of an accreditation self-study consists of more than a basic read-through of the document. A thorough review is a deep dive into the context and inner workings of the program under review, with the CACREP Accreditation Standards and applicable Policies as the guiding review framework. You likely will need to revisit the self-study and accompanying documentation multiple times in advance of the visit. It is highly recommended that you take notes and identify your questions in advance of the visit. It can be helpful for your notes to include indicators of what you looked at and where particular documents and specific information are located. Feedback from institutions indicates that program faculty may construe questions from team members or requests for information that seemingly is included in the self-study as indicators of a lack of preparation by the team or a team member. Prefacing clarifying questions with brief references to what you looked at can provide a context for a request. Another option to avoid such a misperception is to indicate that the self-study included a great deal of information so it is possible information was missed or cannot be located in the moment by the team. It would be helpful, therefore, if the faculty can help locate that information.
Good preparation also includes providing questions or identifying particular focus areas for the program’s liaison in advance of the visit, as well as helping the institution understand what will be needed by the team as the visit agenda is developed. Having the team and the institution on the same page on what will occur and the intent of specified meetings, in advance of the visit, goes a long way toward ensuring a coordinated visit occurs when the team and program representatives come together during the visit. The team should not assume that there is an existing experience level or familiarity with the CACREP accreditation site review process among the program faculty. Such pre-visit planning is coordinated by the site team chair, in consultation with the team members.
Lastly, preparation for a visit includes attending to any necessary personal and professional responsibilities in advance of the visit to provide adequate space for you to focus on the visit for the limited amount of time you will be on site.
Site visitors represent CACREP during their interactions with program representatives in advance of and during the site visit. During a visit, site visitors attend meetings with students, faculty, and administrators, and travel out into the community to visit clinical placement sites. Regardless of the dress norms at one’s home institution, CACREP site visitors should dress professionally throughout the site visit.
Professionalism also has to do with how the team members conduct themselves on site. While accreditation reviews are collegial, peer reviews, feedback from institutions indicates appreciation for teams that are prepared, are focused on the work they are doing, are collegial but professional in their interactions with individuals on-campus, and are focused on the CACREP Accreditation Standards and applicable Policies as the basis for their work. Collegiality and respect for the work being done at the institution are important foundational elements for this professional approach to the site visit.
It is important that CACREP site visitors maintain awareness of and respect for the program’s perspective. The program faculty have invested significant time, energy, and effort in their counseling program and in the accreditation efforts. The institution has committed personnel and financial resources to the efforts. Sensitivities are high during the course of a site visit and, as indicated previously, for some institutions the accreditation is viewed as a high stakes accreditation with implications for the program’s viability. Humor and a casual attitude by the team often is taken the wrong way by the institutional representatives, especially if the team winds up sharing difficult feedback during the course of the visit. Hurt or negative feelings may not manifest during the visit as best faces are put on, but instead may coalesce following the visit as reflection occurs. This is not to say that CACREP site visitors should not be personable or collegial during the visit. This is simply to say that sensitivities can be high and that site visitors should be aware of this during their interactions on site. Again, respect for the perspective of the program is important. A team’s conclusion that many standards are not met or that a program should not be accredited is not necessarily an indicator that a program is not a good program, but rather an indicator that significant work remains for the program in terms of alignment with the CACREP Standards.
Fall 2017: Site Visit Statistics and Thank You
This Fall there have been 26 site visits conducted or scheduled to occur. Thank you to all of our visitors that have gone on a visit to date this Fall or will!
|Mary Kate Reese
|Mary Alice Bruce
|Varunee Faii Sangganjanavanich
If you haven’t been on a visit and would like to go on one in the Spring or Summer, please reach out! We are always in need of team members. Let us know if any of your information has changed so we have current information when scheduling visits!
What’s New at CACREP
CACREP is moving to a more integrated and easier to use site review form. It is built into the CACREP website rather than hosted externally in Fluid Survey. The new format will make it easier for team members to use and for our staff to manage. Additionally, with the new format you will no longer need to complete a separate site visit schedule. You will be able to simply add the schedule into the team report.
We will also soon begin rolling out an online repository for the forms and self-study review materials which up until now you have received via email or in the mail as disks or flashdrives. We will be utilizing ShareFile which allows for cloud storage access and download by our team members of all the necessary paperwork for completing a visit. As we roll this out, we very much invite your feedback so that we can continually make modifications to our process to better serve you.
Scheduling Travel for a Visit?
As site team members, you can book your flight plans through FCM Travel. If you use FCM to book your flights, you will not need to pay any money out of pocket, as FCM direct bills CACREP for the tickets, and you will have an agent that can assist with any travel complications. Please note that we request that site visitors book their tickets in a timely fashion, to avoid the increased cost of late or last minute tickets. Once you have received confirmation that the site visit dates and full team have been finalized, please go ahead and book your travel. Please do not book travel until you have received this confirmation as periodically it is necessary for a visit to get rescheduled or canceled during the set-up period. Additionally, once you are booked your flight, please do your best to not alter flight plans. At times this may be necessary due to unforeseen changes in schedule or weather related events. In these cases we simply ask that you reach out and let us know of your plans to alter your plans. In the vast majority of cases we are happy to accommodate.
Some other questions that come up involve rental cars or driving to a site within a few hours from a team member’s home. Generally teams should not rent a car for a visit. The institution will assist with travel on-site. In rare instances, such as when the distance from the airport to the institution is significant, a rental car may be approved. The team chair should contact the CACREP office in advance with a request for preapproval consideration. The more lead time a team can give on these requests the better. In the case of driving a private vehicle to a visit, it will be necessary for the site team member to provide a cost comparison between driving and flying. In these instances, CACREP will reimburse up to the cost of a standard airline ticket to the location. The team member can provide screen grabs or print outs of the flight costs. Again, please contact the CACREP office for preapproval of these requests.
Lastly, please note that CACREP cannot reimburse for voluntary flight changes (e.g., changing to an earlier flight) or seat upgardes.
We thank all of you, as always, for everything you do in support of the CACREP accreditation process. If you ever need to reach FCM Travel Solutions you can call them at 1-866-749-7533. Please feel free to reach out to Jonathan ([email protected]) at any point with any questions regarding site visits.