Topic 4: Preaccreditation standards and process. Proposed elimination of candidacy pending preaccreditation status for VA residency programs.

Excerpt from USDE Staff Analysis

-- The agency needs to ensure that all of its preaccreditation standards are appropriately related to the agency's accreditation standards. In particular, the agency needs to avoid potential confusion in its public terminology, ensure that a site visit is conducted before granting any public status, and to clearly limit any preaccreditation status, or any combination of preaccreditation statuses, to five years total. In addition, the agency needs to provide documentation of its review and approval of program requests for preaccreditation status. [§602.16(a)(2)]

ACOE Proposed changes to address Topic 4:

That the Council accepts the following for distribution to the community of interest for comment: 

The ACOE proposes the elimination of the "candidacy pending" preaccreditation status for optometric residency programs located at VA facilities.

Many of the concerns in the USDE Staff Analysis were addressed with the adoption and publication of the ACOE's revised process and standards for professional optometric degree programs applying for initial accreditation, which were distributed to the community of interest and published in the Accreditation Manual: Professional Optometric Degree Programs in October 2013.

Since 1983, the ACOE has been USDE recognized for the preaccreditation status of candidacy pending for residency programs at Department of Veterans Affairs facilities, prior to the VA's funding of the program.  This status has been granted following a Council review of a program's initial self-study, which outlines how the program plans to comply with the standards of accreditation when it is operational.  The status of candidacy pending signifies that the educational setting, governing body and organizational pattern appear appropriate for the development of a residency program.  When the program is funded and a resident is in place, the ACOE visits the program in the first year of operations for the purpose of determining whether the program merits accreditation.

However, in the 2013 review, the USDE staff expressed concern that the preaccreditation candidacy pending status is granted prior to conducting a site visit.  The Council believes that conducting a site visit to a program prior to having a resident in place would not provide a great deal of information that cannot be ascertained from a thorough review of the self-study document, and which would be an additional expense for the VA programs.  Since the ACOE appears to be the only accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education for a preaccreditation classification for residency programs, the ACOE has discussed with the VA Director of Academic Affairs and the VA Director of Optometric Service whether another method could be used by the VA in determining whether to initially fund a residency with the ACOE to conduct an accreditation visit to new residency programs for the purpose of determining accreditation.  It appears that other processes are in place in other disciplines within the VA. 

Comments are welcomed regarding this proposal. 

Please review the above proposed policy change and send any comments you might have by no later than January 27, 2014 via email to accredit@aoa.org; mail to Joyce Urbeck, ACOE Administrative Director, 243 N. Lindbergh Blvd., Floor 1, St. Louis. MO 63141; or fax to 314/991-4101.

The ACOE will consider the comments received and the adoption of the policy at the ACOE Winter Meeting on February 7-9, 2014.