Frequently Asked Questions: NASPAA Standards

Standard 1

  • There is no specific expectation for mission review. COPRA expects programs to engage in ongoing program evaluation, which will naturally allow programs to review and consider its mission and whether or not programs are meeting mission-based goals.
  • COPRA does not expect programs will change their missions from year to year, but instead looks for evidence that programs are routinely reviewing the mission’s ongoing alignment with the program’s goals and outcomes.
  • Yes! COPRA looks for evidence that programs have consulted with various stakeholder groups — both internal and external — when developing and reviewing its mission. By involving these stakeholders, programs ensure they are meeting the needs of their faculty, students, and employers.
  • Engaging stakeholders is a crucial aspect of the accreditation process. COPRA looks for evidence that programs are engaging not only their faculty and students, but their alumni, employers, and community. Faculty are often involved in most aspects of program governance: strategic planning and policy decisions, mission review and development, curriculum, hiring, student advising, teaching, etc. External stakeholders are intended to supplement internal efforts and provide an outside perspective on the program. Employers are valuable consumers of the program’s “product” – its students – and can speak to the competencies the field expects of successful hires. Alumni are invested in the quality of the degree, and can identify areas where the program did and did not support them post-graduation. Bringing stakeholders together on a regular basis can facilitate a human capital investment in the future of the program.
  • An advisory board can play whatever role best supports the program and its mission. As the name suggests, this is typically an advisory role — on mission, curriculum, student placement, competency definitions, etc. Programs are increasingly involving their advisory boards in assessment processes. An advisory board is not required by COPRA, but many programs have found them useful.
  • A logic model is a visual representation of the program evaluation process. It helps programs articulate their thought processes about how the program evaluates whether it is achieving its mission. It is a graphic display that illustrates the way that program resources  flow into the activities of the program and produce a series of outcomes and impacts that feed into assessment process, all framed by the program mission.
  • Standard 1.3 deals with overall program evaluation, depicted in the program’s logic model, whereas Standard 5.1 deals with student learning outcome assessment, one piece of overall program evaluation.
  • Standard 1.2 requires that programs establish observable program goals, objectives, and outcomes, including expectations for student learning, consistent with its mission. Standard 1.3 requires programs to collect data on its performance relative to the mission. While COPRA does not require programs to provide strategic plans or program evaluation plans, many programs have found it useful to document the process whereby performance expectations are established and program performance is assessed.

Standard 2

  • Yes! Standard 2.2 requires that programs maintain a core faculty of 5 faculty members employed full-time by the institution. These faculty members can be either professionally or academically qualified. The Basis of Judgment for Standard 3.1, in the Self-Study Instructions, states, “one way to demonstrate that a program’s faculty members meet this standard is if at least 75% of nucleus faculty are academically qualified to pursue the Program’s mission.”
  • No! Standard 2.2 requires that programs maintain a core faculty of 5 faculty members employed full-time by the institution. Joint appointments are common, but programs should ensure that faculty nucleus members are exerting substantial determining influence over the program. Programs should define, in the Self-Study Report, what it means to be a nucleus faculty member with substantial determining influence (i.e. faculty responsibilities), in their context.
  • The normal expectation is for the program to have an identifiable director who provides an appropriate focus of attention, direction, and accountability. COPRA looks for evidence that programs have leadership and administrative capacity to function and support their mission.

Standard 3

  • COPRA recognizes that different programs will have different strategies to meet their missions. In some situations, it may be appropriate for a program to articulate why the normal expectations of the Commission do not support the mission of the program. The program must demonstrate to COPRA how the faculty distribution supports its mission.
  • The program should demonstrate its overt efforts to promote diversity, cultural awareness, inclusiveness, etc., in the program, as well as how the program fosters and supports a climate of inclusiveness on an on-going basis in its operations and services. In addition to the required diversity plan, the Commission seeks substantial evidence regarding programmatic efforts to promote diversity and a climate of inclusiveness, specifically demonstrable evidence of good practice, a framework for evaluating diversity efforts, and the connection to the program’s mission and objectives.
  • Not always. The definition of academically qualified requires that a professor hold a terminal degree related to his or her teaching responsibilities, and has remained current in the field. Typically this is translated as a PhD, but increasingly different disciplines are represented in NASPAA programs. For instance, if you have a JD teaching an administrative law class, the terminal degree would appear related to the teaching responsibility. As always, the program should articulate why policies, including operating criteria for academically qualified faculty, align with the mission of the program.
  • For programs based outside of the United States, the context of what constitutes a terminal degree may be different and COPRA will expect the program to articulate how its policies regarding academically qualified faculty align with both its mission and higher education context in the country.
  • Professionally qualified faculty members generally hold a related graduate degree and have relevant professional experience to his or her area of responsibility. Programs should define how they operationalize their policy for employing professionally (and academically) qualified faculty.
  • Of course! Professional programs can be strengthened by use of current practitioners, who augment the program’s mission and are available to serve as adjuncts. For accreditation, programs should be able to articulate how the makeup of their faculty supports the mission, and ensure the distribution of courses meets COPRA’s normal expectations for at least 50 percent of courses delivery required competencies being naught by qualified nucleus faculty, as well as 50 percent of all courses taught by full-time faculty.
  • COPRA is sensitive to the legal contexts in which programs operate. If a program cannot legally collect, and provide, certain data points, the program should articulate its context for the Commission. With the case of diversity, the program should demonstrate its overt efforts to promote diversity, cultural awareness, inclusiveness, etc., in the program, as well as how the program fosters and supports a climate of inclusiveness on an on-going basis in its operations and services. The Commission seeks substantial evidence regarding programmatic efforts to promote diversity and a climate of inclusiveness, specifically demonstrable evidence of good practice, a framework for evaluating diversity efforts, and the connection to the program’s mission and objectives, regardless of its ability to track data.
  • COPRA continues to evaluate diversity efforts against the context of the program itself, allowing programs based in different geographic locales and regions to be sensitive to local diversity issues and concerns. Programs are expected to provide program- and mission-specific diversity plans that detail strategies to promote faculty, student, and curricular diversity and foster an overall climate of inclusiveness.
  • COPRA articulates its threshold for expectations in Self-Study Instructions Glossary, and expects programs to operationalize their policies for academically and professionally qualified faculty members. The program should articulate a systematic approach to ensuring current faculty, and new hires, are qualified to teach within the program. For instance, what is considered current for an academically qualified professor? How does the program determine what constitutes relevant professional experience for professionally qualified faculty?

Standard 4

  • The program should demonstrate its overt efforts to promote diversity, cultural awareness, inclusiveness, etc., in the program, as well as how the program fosters and supports a climate of inclusiveness on an on-going basis in its operations and services. The Commission seeks substantial evidence regarding programmatic efforts to promote diversity and a climate of inclusiveness, specifically demonstrable evidence of good practice, a framework for evaluating diversity efforts, and the connection to the program’s mission and objectives.
  • As with Standard 3.2, COPRA is sensitive to the legal contexts in which programs operate. If a program cannot legally collect, and provide, certain data points, the program should articulate its context for the Commission. With the case of diversity, the program should describe for the program how it ensures a climate of inclusiveness, regardless of its ability to track data.
  • No. COPRA looks for evidence that a program’s admissions criteria are mission-based, are implemented consistently, and are designed to ensure a qualified and productive pool of students – who are prepared for the rigors of the curriculum – enrolling in the program.
  • Not necessarily. Standard 5.4 requires programs to demonstrate how their students are exposed to, and learn, professional competencies. Most programs use an internship as a central part of their approach. However, depending on the mission of the program and its students, an internship may not be the best approach. For instance, many executive education programs (or tracks) do not require an internship, instead offering other supplemental experiences to their experience as students.
  • COPRA continues to evaluate diversity efforts against the context of the program itself, allowing programs based in different geographic locales and regions to be sensitive to local diversity issues and concerns. Programs are expected to provide program- and mission-specific diversity plans that detail strategies to promote faculty, student, and curricular diversity and foster an overall climate of inclusiveness.
  • COPRA understands the varying needs and situations of programs depending on their institutional context. However, COPRA does expect to see that the program is meeting the needs of its students — whether advising or career-based. If it seems that students are not taking advantage of available services, or struggling to secure internships or graduate in a timely manner, COPRA may ask the program to address how it can better support the needs of its students.

Standard 5

  • This is something with which all programs struggle. The best way to ensure faculty remain engaged in the process is to use the data. Data collection perceived as meaningful and to serve and improve the program is much less tiresome. Another way to lessen the burden on faculty members is to pull other groups into the assessment process. Think about how your program can take advantage of capstone clients, an advisory board, internship advisors, etc., as stakeholders who could also be engaged in student assessment.
  • No! Successful assessment for NASPAA focuses on student competencies instead of curricular specifics.  However, if two faculty members teach the same course with different approaches, and students from these courses demonstrate different levels of competency, then COPRA would expect the program to use its assessment processes to identify opportunities for growth to ensure that all students are successfully gaining mission-based competencies.
  • Strong assessment plans will incorporate multiple types of measures: both direct and indirect. COPRA expects programs to rely predominantly on direct measures of student learning to assess whether students have mastered the competencies, using indirect measures to supplement the direct evidence.
  • Of course! Many programs have formed successful assessment processes incorporating assessment of a culminating student experience – a capstone or portfolio, for instance. Programs also use pre/post tests, comprehensive exams, embedded course experiences, experiential exercises, etc. – both written and oral, and many other combinations of direct measures. There is no one way that works for all programs!
  • COPRA Policy Statements articulate the implementation expectations of the 2009 NASPAA Accreditation Standards, by cohort.
  • A direct measure is an explicit demonstration of student learning, often measured against a rubric. Examples include: capstones, exams, reports, case studies, simulations, white papers, etc.
  • COPRA’s current approach to program specializations (Standard 5.3) is to ensure programs are practicing truth in advertising, with regard to concentrations, and other aspects of specialization quality (e.g. adequacy of course offerings, quality of faculty). (COPRA Policy Statement, December 2013). COPRA does not expect programs to have fully-developed assessment systems in place for their concentrations at this time.
  • Yes, the program should provide its plan for assessing student mastery of the five Universal Required Competencies.
  • An assessment plan typically includes the strategies underlying the assessment of student learning outcomes, as well as the program’s approach to programmatic improvement. A successful assessment plan typically details direct (and indirect, as needed) measures, the use of rubrics for evaluation, faculty and stakeholder involvement, analysis procedures, and how analysis is used for overall program improvement.
  • The Basis of Judgment for Standard 5.1, Self-Study Instructions, states, “An accredited program need not assess all competencies every year or cohort, but rather at a frequency appropriate for its mission and goals. However, assessing each competency only once during a seven year accreditation cycle would not likely be sufficient for conformance in most programs.” The sustainability of an assessment schedule depends on the mission of the program, its structure, and capacity.
  • Sampling is an effective tool for large programs to use when determining if students have mastered program competencies.

Standard 6

  • While the NASPAA Standards have few input requirements, the Standards do provide programs the opportunity to engage in strategic planning and articulate the resources needed to successfully meet their mission and goals. Further, NASPAA site visit teams typically meet with program stakeholders to discuss support for accomplishing goals. At the most basic level, the Standards require every program have at least 5 nucleus faculty members.
  • COPRA is interested in a program’s sustained ability to meet its mission and engage in ongoing development. For instance, if a program indicates that it is struggling to provide appropriate support services to students and faculty, COPRA will look to resource stability as a potential cause for any issues.

Standard 7

  • COPRA Policy Statements and the Self-Study Instructions provide a window into COPRA’s expectations in this regard. Apart from articulating standard program details (mission, faculty, admissions criteria, tuition, learning outcomes, etc.), the NASPAA Standards also require programs to showcase student achievement data, including graduation rates, employment rates, and recent internships.
  • COPRA is committed to public accountability, and ensuring that stakeholders – specifically students – have the information needed to make informed decisions about programs. The NASPAA School Search supports this effort as well, allowing students to compare NASPAA programs. On top of this, NASPAA-COPRA is a CHEA-recognized accreditor; CHEA expects all accreditors to require programs to share outcomes data publicly.
  • Many programs encounter structural obstacles when maintaining a current website. To be in conformance, however, programs must find ways to work with their IT departments. Thinking about the requirements of Standard 7, and establishing a consistent process for updating the website, is important. If your program has completed the NASPAA Annual Program Survey, an interim step to articulating conformance is to provide a link on the program’s website to the NASPAA Data webpage, which would include your program’s student achievement data.