Preparing for Accreditation Review


Preparing for Accreditation Review

Kelly Zhao, PhD.


When an institution or specialized program is accredited, it has demonstrated that it meets standards set by accreditation organizations representing the professional community and other stakeholders.

Credentialing accreditation organizations, such as NCCA, ABSNC, and ANSI, conduct routine comprehensive reviews to evaluate and monitor the operations of the accredited credentialing organizations and programs. This continuing quality assurance process keeps the quality of credentialing programs in check as well as improves their public accountability.

Preparation for accreditation application and reviews is a complex, labor-intensive, and expensive undertaking. Credentialing program managers may find themselves overwhelmed with this lengthy and complicated process, which involves a tremendous amount of preparation for documentation and answering reviewer’s questions.

A few tips derived from the KonMari philosophy for home organization can be helpful for credentialing program managers when facing this complex and time-consuming review process.

Stay Organized

Simply structure your documentation system in accordance to the accreditation standards. An easy way to keep track of the review needs is by creating a master index table with the needed documents listed next to the line of each standard. For instance, the NCCA evaluates certification exam programs by 24 standards. Compliance with Standard 14 (Job Analysis) will require a job analysis report, and its related records, budgets, and approvals should be available to meet the review needs. A link to the folder where these materials are saved needs to be in place as well.

Additionally, organizing files by date and content in a well-structured folder system with a file naming convention for version control will keep your work neat and tidy. It is important to cultivate a habit of routine maintenance for the information provided by different parties at various times throughout an exam development cycle. Just like how a daily five-minute speed-cleaning helps maintain a clean home, organizing files and folders regularly will save you from stress when the due date is approaching and a lot needs to be prepared.

Be Simple and Intuitive

The accreditation reviewers provide feedback and comments after their review on the submitted documents for each accredited program. For most programs, getting additional questions and requests for more evidence to support the validity of certain activities or decisions are very commonly seen as a result of the first round of accreditation review. “Tough” questions or “heavy” requests are often incorrectly perceived as a representation of the reviewers suspecting there are flaws in your operations.

Credentialing managers should understand that oftentimes reviewers simply want to gain more knowledge or a deeper understanding of how the program activities are implemented and the main reason behind each important decision. This is their way of ensuring that your program follows outlined standards and guidelines and that the processes completed line up with the certification policies in place.

The key to handling these requests is to fulfill them in a simple and straightforward manner. Credentialing managers should answer each question directly and succinctly, identifying to reviewers the documents that support your point without arguing with the reviewers or diverting your answer to another topic. Keep in mind that most of the reviewers have their own professional focus and specialty and they only ask for more information to learn about your program with no intention to challenge you. When being asked the reason why certain mistakes occurred or important steps were skipped, simply explain the reason (e.g., budget limits, a true oversight). In addition, it is most important to provide a remedial plan with a timeline and details to demonstrate that you are already planning for a solution.

Find Joy

Perhaps accreditation applications don’t “spark joy,” but it is not unreasonable to expect your psychometrician to help you find that joy you may be missing. Psychometricians and test developers are the process experts who can help you answer most of the “tough” questions, provide much of the needed records and documents, and guide you through this review process.

In theory, your psychometrician should be able to provide the needed assistance or direct you to the right channel. Remember, a taxing season does not have to be painful to live through when you are equipped with the right mind, attitude, tools, and assistance.