The Five Major Challenges of ARC-PA 5th Edition Standards

scott's thoughts Jul 20, 2022

These are exciting times, and PA education is rapidly changing and pivoting. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the ARC-PA’s 5th Edition Standards, which set the expectations for PA programs and the requirements for their operation. Understanding and complying with these Standards can make the difference between a successful commission action and an adverse decision leading to probation for the program.

We developed the following chart from information gathered from the ARC-PA commission’s website. In reviewing it, we can see that in the years from 2015 through 2020, citations have dramatically increased under the C-Standards, particularly Standards C1.01 (The program must implement an ongoing program self-assessment process that is designed to document program effectiveness and foster program improvement); and C2.01 (The program must prepare a Self-Study Report as part of the application for continuing accreditation that accurately and succinctly documents the process, application, and results of ongoing program self-assessment).

PA Programs on Probation

Citations Received

Why is there such a dramatic increase in citations?

We see PA programs facing five major challenges where the 5th Edition Standards are concerned:

  1. 5th Edition Standards increase the amount of quantitative and qualitative data that PA programs must gather, analyze, and interpret on their annual Self-Study Reports
  2. “Looking at the data each year” is no longer sufficient The old style of taking a few days each year to compartmentalize and interpret data simply won’t be adequate. A PA program that waits for a once-yearly analysis will find itself buried in the sheer volume of data required. We must track and maintain data records year-round in order to accurately represent and interpret it on the Self-Study Report (SSR).
  3. There are increased expectations regarding the complexity and scope of assessment on SSRs. There seems to an almost “unwritten” expectation that continues to evolve over time, requiring the sophistication of our SSRs and our responses to citations to keep pace with the Standards. In historically examining citations and programs’ responses to those citations, we observe that a response that worked five years ago is no longer adequate.
  4. The commission expects all action plans and modifications in the SSR to tie directly to a data source and be documented in program minutes. This is an essential point to recognize. When the commission reviews your SSR, they look at your modifications, your strengths, and areas needing improvement, and even your conclusions, they reverse-engineer those to determine whether or not they can directly see the data source tying your answers to action plans and modifications. If there is no evidence of connection, that report is inadequate. Many SSRs falter at this point because of our next challenge…
  5. Many PA programs lack internal expertise regarding assessment. PA educators do not necessarily have an assessment background. The ability to interpret data is, in general, a talent that is not well-taught in our education system – or to put it in simpler terms, they teach us how to create charts and graphs but not how to glean information from them. We may labor under misconceptions about what certain statistics mean, or what value we can truly place in averages and year-to-year comparisons. In some cases, PA programs hire data managers or assessment directors, an expensive option that not all programs can access. 

Now that we have outlined the challenges, what are the solutions? During our next several blogs, we will begin by discussing in depth how your PA program and your faculty can meet and manage these challenges to ensure success going forward. After that, we will include a breakdown of Appendix 14’s subsections to clarify their meaning and application. And don’t forget, Massey Martin, LLC offers a four-part webinar series on meeting 5th Edition Standards. Our webinars are always free.



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