Re-accreditation is crucial to the longevity and success of any program but is especially important for behavioral health programs. But gathering the necessary documentation and planning the full process often leaves faculty and staff members exhausted and frustrated.
We sat down with a social worker, ex-dean, and current EdTech consultant to discuss the headache that is reaccreditation. We dug into her own experiences navigating CSWE re-accreditation while working as a faculty and staff member as well as what she’s seen while being a consultant.
Q: What are the most challenging parts of the re-accreditation process?
A: There are many challenging parts of re-accreditation. One of the biggest pains while I was working at a graduate school was that it was a big program. Because there were so many people that had to be on the same page about what needed to be done and how to do it, it required a lot of personnel organization.
One of the great things about academia is that everyone has their own ideas about how to navigate complex things. But when it comes to re-accreditation, this clash of personalities can draw out an already arduous process.
One of the best things to do right away in the process is to gather everyone’s buy-in and make sure that everyone knows what they’re responsible for, when they need to do it, and building open lines of communication.
Q: Beyond the time commitment, knowing what to do, when to do it, etc. what other looming challenges might a program face with re-accreditation?
A: Sometimes the accreditation standards might change.
When I was at my previous program, we were building up for our re-accreditation visit and we were pretty far along and then the standards changed. We had to figure out if we were going to stay with the old standards or change and redo everything according to the new standards.
We ended up going to the new standards. We had to change everything around. Then we ended up delaying our visit by a year, convincing them to allow us to delay for a year.
And it’s not just accreditation standards that change.
Programs change their curriculums, their specializations, and concentrations. When they re-work these things, that impacts their forms, their classes. Everything. These changes impact how they measure outcomes, which impacts how they report for re-accreditation.
So really, one of the biggest challenges is that things change on both sides and any change has ripple effects.
Q: Yeah. I’m getting a headache just thinking about it. Is there a go-to resource that programs can check these new regulations that might say, “It was this, now it’s this.”
A: Yes. For CSWE accreditation and re-accreditation, their website has all of that.
Here’s CSWE’s website.
When I worked on re-accreditation twice, we didn’t have this. Both times we turned in volumes of paper. We turned in four volumes, like 100 plus pages each.
Now, luckily, CSWE has created an online template that people can type into. There’s all the different parts and all the different questions they need to answer and all the things they need to demonstrate. The online thing that they created is really helpful because then different people can go plug in their parts into one big document.
The measurement of all the stuff is where external software, like Tevera, comes in. That scares a lot of people and is a big headache.
Q: Why is it scary?
A: Personally, I love crunching numbers and getting everyone organized. That’s probably why I love technology. But many don’t.
I believe that it’s scary because it’s hard to see what you should be doing. And when you don’t have a clear understanding of what to measure or how to measure it, that quickly becomes overwhelming.
Q: Why is there so much confusion if these things are measured often?
A: I think it’s ambiguous wording. And the timeline. You have to wrap your mind around it. The other thing is, there are many different ways to measure these things. Most schools will do it in a course. Most schools will do two measurements, one in the field placement and one in the course. That will measure all the competencies in the coursework and all the competencies in the field placement.
But, you don’t have to do it that way.
Some schools do a test at the end to measure one of the competencies. Some schools do a portfolio. They have to make decisions on how they’re going to measure and then they have to define, in the coursework, they have to define the actual assignments and explain how those assignments are actually going to prove the student has competency in this area.
There’s a lot of thought before you get to crunching the numbers that is hard.
Q: How long does the re-accreditation process take?
A: It’s a seven-year cycle. Once a university gets re-accredited, then they usually take a huge sigh of relief. They’re so sick of it they can’t look at it for a year or two.
But then they have to start building back up again. The hope would be that the systems are in place after the first time that they can continue on, continue measuring every year so that the next time they have seven years of data. The more automated things are, the more likely that is to happen. The less curriculums change and accreditation standards change and all that, the more likely that is to happen.
But what often happens in reality is a school will get re-accredited, ignore accreditation for at least a couple years then start thinking about it for a couple more years and then the last three years, that’s when they start working on it again.
The first year is usually just doing all that course mapping stuff. Then they have to have a year’s worth of data. In our case, the accreditation people were coming in the spring, we had to have the whole prior academic year, we had to have a year’s worth of data. The year before that is when we were really gearing up to measure and then be ready. It’s about a three-year process in total.
Re-accreditation is an important and long process that we’re proud to be able to simplify for programs.
Thank you for your time and sharing your expertise with us!