Finding Solutions to Common ARC-PA Citations –Volume 2:

scott's thoughts Oct 24, 2023

Standard C 1.03

We begin our discussion of common ARC-PA citations with the most notorious of the bunch - Standard C1.03. This Standard and its many appendices comprise directions for a program’s completion of the Self-Study Report (SSR).

Standard C1.03 states: The program must prepare a self-study report as part of the application for accreditation that accurately and succinctly documents the process, application and results of ongoing program self-assessment. The report must follow the guidelines provided by the ARC-PA.

Since March 2022 44 out of 98 programs reviewed received a citation for standard C1.03. That’s 45%, or nearly half of the programs! This is an extremely common issue. Moreover, getting a citation in Standard C1.03 results in spillover citations into Standard C1.02.

Common language of the findings and citations

To put it briefly, the Commission wants SSRs to be exceedingly thorough, with equal attention given to each appendix. The following are examples of common patterns I see in ARC-PA’s citations. Italicized emphasis has been added.

Findings: “The program did not prepare a self-study report that consistently documented the program’s process of ongoing data analysis and linked the data analysis to data-driven conclusions with subsequent identification of program strengths, areas in need of improvement, and action plans.” 

Note that the operative word above is “consistently.” Your SSR report must document your data analysis and the conclusions derived from it throughout the appendices. Look at the following common citation wording:

Findings: “Within the submitted SSR, the program did not provide documentation of data collection, critical data analysis and the ability to link analysis to data-driven conclusions and subsequent identification of program strengths, areas in need of improvement and action plans. While the self-study report reflected the program was collecting some data, evidence the program was critically analyzing data and drawing conclusions based on documented data analysis was absent in each of the required SSR appendices. Examples include but were not limited to…”

Once again, we see that the Commission expects data and analysis across the board; missing one of the appendices results in observation.

The Self-Study Report: Directions from ARC-PA

My strongest recommendation for completing the Self-Study Report is to follow directions verbatim on the SSR template. Failing to meet every item in the ARC-PA’s description may lead to findings of inadequacy.

In its instructions for the SSR, the Commission makes numerous points that are relevant to the detail and care that must be taken. The way they have laid out these instructions is the way you must approach the report at all times. The following are points taken directly from the ARC-PA’s template.

  • This application requires the completion of templates and narrative questions related to the ongoing self-assessment process which constitute the content of the Self-Study Report (SSR, Appendix 14).
  • The program may need to refer to issues related to selected standards addressed within the body of the application as it completes its SSR. The program need not repeat exact content from elsewhere in the application and may refer the reader to the specific standard and page of the application for content reference.
  • The SSR must be submitted according to the directions at the end of this document.

Your program will present data for each Appendix 14 element. But the one thing that is evident to me is that there is an expectation for the program to provide references from other appendices; this expectation is stated numerous times in the instructions and is sometimes referred to as the “triangulation of data” component. In other words, the Commission wants to see your conclusions drawn across the appendices in a consistent manner, showing that your program has a cohesive overview of its components. We’ll look at the aspect of triangulation more closely in upcoming blogs.

Further instructions from the Commission include the following (italicized emphasis added):

  • In addition to the data required in the SSR, the program may provide additional data but only enough to support pertinent conclusions in the analysis. All source data should be available to the site visitors.
  • When incorporating relevant data from other areas (focus groups, PANCE system/task scores, faculty evaluation of their courses, etc.) provide an aggregate summary of the data being referenced. Follow the instructions for naming and saving the document in the appropriate folder.
  • When incorporating relevant data from other appendices, e.g., PANCE pass rates or student feedback, provide specific reference to the other appendices.
  • When qualitative data is cited (e.g., comments from a survey), provide a summary of the data and explain the method for analyzing it, e.g. number or percent of comments and/or trends over time.  Report response rates.
  • Where data collection tools employ scales, state the scale used and provide definitions for each of the available scores.
  • Where called for, explicitly state benchmarks and explain the rationale for choosing that particular level of benchmark. (Note: benchmarks must indeed be quite precise. I will give some specific examples in upcoming blogs. They must specifically show numbers, trends, response rates, etc. The scale must be stated, and you must justify the benchmark. Your conclusions will be drawn from your benchmarks.)

Programs must follow verbatim directions and include every data source named within each Appendix 14 component.

If you have an absence of data at any point, be certain to describe it, state the reason why it is absent, and how you will correct it going forward.

A failure to follow any element could result in an observation.

Next time…

We will continue the blog series accompanying my new webinar about the most common ARC-PA citations. I’ll address each of C1.03’s appendices separately and discuss what I feel are common missteps in program responses to these requirements. I hope you’ll join me then!


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