Preparing for an accreditation site visit is always stressful for university faculty and staff, even under the best of circumstances. Depending on whether we’re talking about a regional accrediting body, a state compliance audit, or a discipline-specific accreditor, there are certain processes and procedures that must be followed. This piece will focus helping teacher preparation programs prepare for a Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) site visit.
Essential CAEP Site Visit Preparation Items
Approximately 2-4 months prior to a site visit, the CAEP team lead will meet virtually the educator preparation program (EPP) administrator(s) and staff. Sometime representatives of that state’s department of education will participate. By the end of this meeting, all parties should be “on the same page” and should be clear regarding what to expect in the upcoming site visit. Here are the topics that are essential to cover. Keep in mind that these items are for onsite program reviews. Due to COVID, all site visits are currently being conducted virtually.
Virtual and/or Hybrid Site Reviews
Virtual or hybrid virtual site reviews require a different type of preparation than those I’m describing below. In those instances, an institution’s IT staff must take great care several months prior to the review to create a secure, user-friendly repository for internal faculty and staff drafts but also for the evidence library and final submission documents. Moreover, those IT staff must build on that digital framework for use during the review for site visitors. There are several key considerations that are needed when building out the digital repository. Those are beyond the scope of this publication and require a separate article.
- Confirm preferred airport
- If arrival and departure times coincide, team prefers to pick up a rental car at the airport and provide their own transportation during the site visit.
- Otherwise, EPP will need to make ground transportation arrangements
- Not required, but generally requested by the team if there are concerns regarding clinical experiences. Typically limit of 2 (from different grade levels such as 1 Elem & 1 HS)
- Should not require significant drive time
- EPP should provide a guide (typically faculty) to drive and serve as host/hostess
- Usually should take no more than 1 hour onsite at school
Hotel and Onsite Workrooms
- Must be secure and private; lockable.
- Only site team members and state representatives are to enter the work rooms.
- Conference table large enough to accommodate all team members and state representatives
- Printer, secure wifi, LCD or HDTV projector
- Basic office supplies (i.e., stapler, paper clips, post-its, note pads, pens, highlighters, etc.)
Food/Snacks Onsite and in Hotel Workroom
- There should be healthy snacks and beverages (i.e., bottled water, coffee, soda) in the work room at the hotel and on campus.
- The team will eat breakfast at the hotel each morning.
- If at all possible, the team will want to remain on campus for lunch, with the ideal arrangement to have lunch catered either in the workroom or in an adjacent room.
- The EPP should suggest a variety of restaurants within easy driving distance of the hotel for dinner each night.
Interviews: So Important in a CAEP Site Visit
Generate a list of individuals who can respond accurately and confidently to team members’ questions. Typical examples include:
- Assessment Director
- Field Experiences Coordinator
- Full-Time Faculty
- Key Adjunct Faculty
- Current candidates representing multiple programs
- Program completers representing multiple programs
- Cooperating teachers from field experiences
- Clinical supervisors
- P-12 partners (i.e., superintendents, principals, teachers, etc.)
Onsite Interview Rooms
- Depending on final schedule, site team members may need to use 3 rooms simultaneously.
- There must be a door for private conversations and deliberations.
- EPP representatives should not attend interviews with candidates, program completers, or cooperating teachers
- EPP should prepare sign-in sheets for each interview.
- A staff member should get all participants to sign in and then leave the room.
- All sign-in sheets should be sent to the site team lead.
- Requests for Additional Information or Data: All requests should flow from and back to the site team lead.
Advanced Preparation is Key to a Successful CAEP Site Visit
This list may feel exhausting, but it’s not exhaustive. I have included only the most essential items here. Remember–advanced preparation is one key to a successful site visit. University staff should do their homework and know what is required. Get organized. Appoint someone with experience to coordinate the event. Start well in advance. And if in doubt, hire a consultant. Each institution’s success depends in no small part to their ability to earn accreditation. This process is quite complex and should never be taken lightly.
About the Author: Dr. Roberta Ross-Fisher has expertise in higher education quality assurance, educator preparation, and competency-based education. A former public school teacher and college administrator, Roberta is now an educational consultant specializing in the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP).