A comprehensive review of optometric education standards continues to spur a profession-wide introspection on academic quality and improvement in the classroom, and beyond.
The Accreditation Council on Optometric Education (ACOE)—the only accrediting body for professional optometric degree, optometric residency and optometric technician programs in the U.S. and Canada—has issued a request for comment on existing professional optometric degree (POD) program standards as part of a routine, 5-year review.
"The AOA supports and is urging adoption of strict standards and accreditation requirements to safeguard the quality of optometric education and the future of our profession. This is the moment to speak out, and we're doing exactly that on behalf of our members," said AOA President Steven A. Loomis, O.D.
This review process helps ACOE maintain quality educational standards that are the requirements for programs to be accredited, and incorporates input from the larger academic community and profession to ensure standards reflect requirements essential to operating an optometric program.
J. Bart Campbell, O.D., ACOE chair, says the current review process began with a summit of the schools and colleges of optometry and major optometric organizations in October 2014 to initiate a thorough discussion on the criticality and clarity of the existing standards.
"The Council looks at this as a dynamic process with lots of input," Dr. Campbell says. "The Council is very interested in making sure our standards are up-to-date and reflect the current situations in the profession."
As part of the review process, a committee devoted to reviewing the standards—the POD Committee—has prepared draft versions of updated standards for ACOE, the last of which was presented and accepted at ACOE's annual meeting, June 24-27, 2015. This draft version is currently available for any interested party to submit written comments by Sept. 30, 2015.
Proposed changes to existing standards
Whereas the revised ACOE standards adopted in January 2014 apply only to emergent POD programs, the current review process extends to existing programs, as well. The ACOE proposes changes in each of the eight standards, and two areas significantly emphasized include:
- Revising standards and terminology to make programs more transparent with publicly accessible performance and outcome data
- Strengthening standards pertaining to externship rotations
The POD Committee will review input received from this current comment period and present a second draft at ACOE's October 2015 meeting. At that time, the council will either consider adopting the presented standards or posting for a second comment period. Once the standards are adopted, a date will be set for the new standards to take effect.
"ACOE is continuously looking at our standards, and this periodic review process will be a top-to-bottom review," Dr. Campbell says. "ACOE is always open to anyone who is interested in submitting comments."
In June, the AOA House of Delegates approved changes to the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education that increased the number of members on its board from 11 to 13. The council also announced the passing of the baton to new leadership.
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