I succeeded Alexandra Rowe as CEA’s 2017 chair, and it is my pleasure to provide this first update of the year to the public and the field. The Commission has been busy, meeting twice in 2017, once in person on April 6th – 9th and once virtually on May 10th. The Commission’s activities have included making accreditation decisions and conducting various governance initiatives, as charged by the CEA Policies and Procedures and reflected by the agenda items described below.
As the year began, the Commission welcomed four new commissioners as well as nine continuing commissioners. As an established part of CEA’s good-governance practices, the CEA Policies and Procedures require that new Commissioners undergo orientation prior to their first meeting, and that further, a full-Commission orientation must take place every year at the first meeting. These orientation sessions included review of CEA’s policies, procedures, and decision-making practices. Additionally, the Commission conducted a study of the principles that characterize a high-performing non-profit association and of the fundamentals of a soundly-designed and operated accreditation agency. CEA’s attorneys Jefferson Glassie and Dorothy Deng, from the firm of Whiteford, Taylor, Preston, attended and presented a session on Association Law, which included, for example, a review of commissioners’ fiduciary responsibilities, CEA’s responsibilities as a non-profit corporation, and liabilities and protections related to conflicts of interest, confidentiality, due process, and other matters.
CEA now accredits 327 sites. At the April meeting the Commission made 24 accreditation decisions, and at the May meeting, 3 accreditation decisions. Within 30 days of the decisions, all are announced to federal and state agencies, the public, and the field, and are listed on the CEA website. The full range of accreditation decision types are now regularly represented on the Commission’s agenda, including initial, reaccreditation, and continued accreditations; accreditation of additional branches; results of appeals; expirations; and withdrawals including closures. The Commission reviewed an analysis of all additional branch decisions since April 2014, when the additional branch policy was updated. The policy appears to be working as planned, allowing accredited sites to apply to add an additional branch and carefully supervising it for an initial period of 20 months.
Annual reports, compliance actions
As the number of accredited sites increases, related compliance reporting also increases. The Standards Compliance Committee (SCC) reviewed 91 reports this cycle. Of these, 45 related to substantive changes or their follow-up, including 4 due to changes of control or ownership. In addition, the SCC reviews Annual Reports due each year in February from all accredited sites (with some limited exceptions). The Annual Report package comprises enrollment and faculty updates, data on a site’s student achievement and progression rates, and information about any regulatory changes the site has experienced; sustaining fees; and financial statements. In 2017, 315 Annual Reports have been received. Once these are fully processed, the SCC will review a summary of the data and notable trends, and as last year, a report will be provided to the Constituent Council.
Following efforts throughout 2016, in January CEA received final staff findings from the US Department of Education regarding CEA’s petition for continued USDE recognition, and in February, CEA went before the USDE’s advisory committee (NACIQI) for a final review. CEA was granted one year continued recognition with one reporting requirement. The reporting requirement relates to the USDE criteria governing the length of time a site can be out of compliance with any standard, particularly as relates to extensions “for good cause” when the specified time to come into compliance is exceeded. The Commission has established a study group to review current policies and develop new ones as needed to resolve this concern. The study group will provide analysis and a proposal to the full Commission at the August meeting, after which any policy changes will be reviewed with accredited sites and reported to USDE.
Consulting Task Force Recommendations
In 2016 the Commission established a task force to review CEA’s position on consulting and consultants. Following an extensive review of current practices in the accreditation arena, a survey of accredited sites to ascertain their perspectives and needs, surveys of CEA representatives, and several Commission discussion sessions, at the April meeting the task force provided a final report and recommendations. In the coming months, CEA will post website resources to help sites screen for CEA-knowledgeable consultants and understand how a consultant appropriately relates to CEA, while making clear that CEA doesn’t provide the names of individuals who consult.
Constituent Council Meeting
Following discussion at last year’s Constituent Council meeting in Denver, a survey of the Council, and review of the software platforms, the Commission made the decision to conduct CEA’s 2017 annual business meeting in a virtual format. The meeting has been held in all previous years at the NAFSA conference; however, the time and expense of travel for many sites is prohibitive. The virtual meeting will be held on Friday, June 9, 2017, at 12:00 Eastern. Following evaluation of this pilot, CEA will determine whether to continue to use this format for the annual meeting. The meeting agenda includes reports from each standing committee as well as an overview of CEA’s financial statements; the webinar platform will accommodate questions from attendees.
Call for Nominations
As the field’s specialized accreditor, CEA’s Commission must reflect the wide range of experiences, expertise, and perspectives present in the field and to accomplish this, each year the Nominating Committee solicits applications from qualified individuals. I encourage you to review the 2017 Call for Nominations and consider who would be appropriate candidates. Applications are due July 15, 2017, for service commencing in January 2018.
Please contact Mary Reeves, CEA’s executive director, with any questions you may have.
2017 Commission Chair
The Commission held its final meeting of the year December 2 – 4, 2016. It has been an active year, as CEA continues to grow, maintain established procedures, and make improvements in services and the accreditation process. The number of accredited programs and institutions now stands at 325.
The enrollment contraction in the field has broadly (although not uniformly) impacted accredited sites; data on enrollments among accredited sites will be available to the Constituent Council following review of 2017 Annual Report submissions. Despite lower enrollments, however, CEA continues to receive applications, with 55 – 60 sites currently in process. Also, accredited programs and institutions continue to open or acquire new branch locations; in the last two years CEA has reviewed 25 applications for additional branches. CEA staff conducted 19 accreditation workshops in 2016, 16 of which were custom workshops; in total, workshops had 540 individual participants, including individuals working at all levels within IEPs and thus extending information about CEA to a wide range of administrators and instructional personnel throughout our field.
USDE continued recognition
In June CEA submitted its petition for continued recognition by the US Department of Education. First recognized in 2003, like all recognized accreditation agencies CEA must periodically demonstrate continued compliance with federal regulations. USDE staff observed a CEA site visit as well as the December Commission meeting as part of the review process. CEA will next undergo a public interview by USDE and its advisory board in February 2017, with a decision anticipated in the months after.
2017 Policies and Procedures updates
Earlier in the year, following task force work, CEA published an updated and reformatted CEA Policies and Procedures manual (available at cea-accredit.org/about-cea/policies-and-procedures). A Policies and Procedures Committee was formally established, comprised of former Commission chairs, whose charge includes a regular annual review of the full document to ensure that it is up-to-date. This annual review was conducted, editorial changes for clarity were made, and the 2017 edition will be posted in January. The Commission approved two substantive changes to the 2017 document. 1) In order to comply with USDE regulations, the requirement that “educators” and “practitioners”, as defined by USDE guidelines, be on all decision-making bodies for programmatic decisions was added; CEA’s policies have always required that “academics” and “administrators” be included and these requirements have not changed. 2) Clarifications were added to the additional branch policy, by which a fully accredited site may apply to add an additional branch through an expedited process under certain conditions, stating that a site that has been subject to an adverse action by another agency or by CEA may not be added through the additional branch policy, but must apply through the regular eligibility process. This policy was expressed elsewhere in the Policies and Procedures, but was not directly stated in the additional branch policy itself. Please direct any questions about these policy amendments to Mary Reeves, CEA’s executive director.
CEA’s position on consulting and consultants
Applicant and accredited sites regularly contact CEA seeking consultants to support review of their program components in preparation for self-study, for assistance in applying the CEA Standards, and for program development as part of accreditation. CEA staff members provide extensive counseling, but external consultants are also providing services. The role of consulting and consultants poses a range of challenges and opportunities for accreditation agencies, from the need to ensure that the agency is protected from actual or perceived conflict-of-interest to the possibility of providing useful new services. A task force has been formed to study the context and environment. While gathering information, the task force polled the Constituent Council for their perspectives, with 85 sites responding. The task force has also reviewed surveys of other accreditation agencies’ positions and policies, as well as current and former commissioners and others. The task force will make recommendations to the full Commission at the April 2017 meeting.
New Commissioners elected for 2017
We welcome four new commissioners, elected by the Constituent Council to serve 2017 – 2019 terms: Susan Carkin, Carolyn Ho, Connie Lee, and Sheryl Meyer. The CEA Nominating Committee is charged with ensuring that the Commission profile maintains a balance of domains of expertise, types of experiences, and range of perspectives, as well as including administrators and academics/educators/practitioners, from year to year. The Nominating Committee conducts a detailed process of soliciting applications, interviewing candidates and references, and determining the slate each year. The Call for Nominations for 2018 commissioner applicants will be published March 1, 2017.
Strategic Plan implementation
The Commission reviewed progress on achieving priorities and goals on CEA’s 2016 – 2020 Strategic Plan (available at cea-accredit.org/2016_-_2020_Strategic_Plan_Final.pdf) CEA’s work is aligned with the strategic plan; among notable activities in 2016 include development of several new resources or enhancement of existing resources for accredited sites (including webinars providing instructions for completing the parts of the Annual Report, sample Annual Report responses, and custom accreditation workshops); training for reviewers (including an advanced reviewer webinar and a regular seminar for CEA site visit representatives); supportive and appropriate engagement with colleague organizations (including CEA presentations at UCIEP, TESOL, NAFSA, and EnglishUSA conferences, and other events such as for US State Department groups); and increased engagement with the Constituent Council as a body (including discussion groups at the Constituent Council meeting, polling the Council regarding perspectives on consulting, distribution of the Annual Report Summary for the first time). Specific initiatives have been identified for 2017; following needs analysis and other study, we anticipate piloting new events for Constituents and the field.
On a personal note
As my chair year concludes, I thank all of you—Constituent Council, commissioners, CEA staff, and especially our incomparable executive director—for your help in ensuring that this year, my sixth CEA year, divided into two terms separated by a number of years, has been intriguing, rewarding, and sometimes even entertaining. I was a commissioner in the early days of CEA when we toted and traveled with enormous binders of narratives and documents. Now all of this is on a flash drive. The CEA Policies and Procedures are extraordinarily efficient and clear and become more efficient and clear with each new mind that comes to the Commission. The 2017 chair is one of these new minds that have improved Commission business, Engin Ayvaz of Yasar University, Izmir, Turkey, CEA’s first international chair. I view this as a milestone for CEA, evidence that not only has CEA improved our field here in the U.S. but it is also improving our field around the world and will continue to do so under Engin’s sure and steady leadership.
This is not farewell for me. I will continue to serve CEA in whatever ways I can, beginning with chairing the Nominating Committee seeking new Commissioners. I invite all of you to consider applying to serve as a Commissioner, the best professional development activity I have ever enjoyed.
Wishing all of us peace during this season of reflection and good cheer.
Alexandra Rowe, PhD