Southern Association of Colleges and Schools

SACS LogoThe Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges is the regional body for the accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions in the Southern states. The Commissions's mission is two-fold:(1) enhance the quality of education in the region, (2) improve the effectiveness of institutions by ensuring that standards, established by the higher education community, address the needs of students and society.

Accreditation

Accreditation by SACS Commission on Colleges signifies that the institution (1) has a mission appropriate to higher education, (2) has resources, programs, and services sufficient to accomplish and sustain that mission, and (3) maintains clearly specified educational objectives that are consistent with its mission and appropriate to the degrees it offers, and that indicate whether it is successful in achieving its stated objectives.

Accreditation is a process of self-regulation, representing a tradition or philosophy in the United States of self-governing through a representative, flexible, and responsive system. Accreditation is based upon integrity, judgment, requirements, and trust. Through the process, an assessment of institutional effectiveness provides the fulfillment of its mission, adherence to accrediting requirements, accountability to stakeholders, and continuous quality improvement of student success.

Accreditation is a public statement of intent by the University to a continuing process of improvement indicating capacity-building to provide effective programs and services aligned with the principles and philosophy of accreditation to fulfill its mission. This is accomplished through the documentation of the quality and effectiveness of all programs and services within the University.

There are six assessment elements in the continuous improvement planning for SACS. They are: (1) Goals, (2) Objectives, (3) Indicators, (4) Criteria, (5) findings, (6) Actions. Each element is linked to a template for that specific goal, as an example. Additionally, each element is defined

Goals

A broadly stated intention, aspiration or ambition that is realistically achievable, if not today, then, tomorrow. It is not required that the goals(s) be directly measurable. A goal establishes a desired result an individual or organization commits to achieve within a specified time frames. For continuous improvement planning at SHSU, goal setting reflects the mission of the program, office, department or division.

Objectives

An objective is a result or outcome that an organization seeks to achieve in pursing its basic mission. They provide direction, assistance in evaluation, create synergistic opportunities, establish priorities, provide an environment for effective planning of activities. An objective should be SMART, Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time bound (Doran, 1981).

Indicators

The indicator for a learning objective - The observable and measurable evidence of whether or not the learning outcome is achieved. Direct Indicators of Learning Outcomes are generally represented as tests (or specific portions of tests), rubric-driven subjective measurements, or juried reviews and evaluations of the targeted learning. Indirect Indicators of Learning Outcomes often include surveys in which students are asked to report about how well they have mastered the course material.

When describing the Indicator, one should include information about the type of measurement and method being used to obtain the measurement. This should include a description of the steps taken to ensure that the measurement instrument and the measurement method are appropriate for capturing evidence of the targeted learning, that they are standardized within the program and consistent across courses, professors and terms. Copies of or examples from instruments being used should be attached, if necessary.

Indicator for a Performance Objective - The Indicator for a Performance Outcome is the observable and measurable evidence of whether or not the performance objective is satisfied. Performance Outcome Indicators are often represented by measurements of comparative improvements in quantities, proportions, and rates and/or in constituency satisfaction levels. When describing the indicator, one should include information about the type of measurement and method being used to obtain the measurements and why they are appropriate for capturing evidence of the desired performance outcome. An indicator is a measure of an objective, performance in a specific area.

Criteria

a criterion is a specific target, standard, or benchmark that, if met, is indicative of success. This target must be determined prior to the collection of data and must be directly aimed at a specific indicator. Criteria are desired outcomes, and as such, should be set high. Not fully satisfying a criterion should not be seen as a failure on the part of the office/department/program; rather, it should be viewed as an opportunity for continuous improvement.

When an Objective specifies IMPROVEMENT as an outcome, the Criterion must state both the benchmark to which the Indicator measurement will be compare, and the increase that will be expected

Findings

a qualitative or quantitative indicator that uniquely identifies the result or outcome. A finding is the result or conclusion derived from an assessment. Findings report the results obtained after measuring the targeted learning or performance outcome in the manner specified by the Indicator. The Finding description should include a detailed summary of the assessment results. Documents should be attached, if possible. Findings must be described even in situations where a criterion is met or exceeded

Actions

an action is a process causing intentional activities to further accomplish a goal. An Action is the program, department or office response to one or more findings about the outcome of a targeted objective. The Action should specifically describe how assessment findings were considered, reflected upon, and used to motivate or shape activities and/or policies to improve the program, department, or office. Actions may include creation of new procedures, changes in curriculum, purchase of new software, etc.). Even when a criterion is met or exceeded, a specific, and detailed, action is required to demonstrate that the office/department/program reflected upon the results of the assessment process and considered what it would do to maintain or improve the successful targeted outcome for the next year.

The Commission on Colleges adheres to the following fundamental characteristics of accreditation:

  • Participation in the accreditation process is voluntary and is an earned and renewable status.
  • Member institutions develop, amend, and approve accreditation requirements.
  • The process of accreditation is representative, responsive, and appropriate to the types of institutions accredited.
  • Accreditation is a form of self-regulation.
  • Accreditation requires institutional commitment and engagement.
  • Accreditation is based upon a peer review process.
  • Accreditation requires an institutional commitment to student learning and achievement.
  • Accreditation acknowledges an institution's prerogative to articulate its mission within the recognized context of higher education and its responsibility to show that it is accomplishing its mission.
  • Accreditation requires institutional commitment to the concept of quality enhancement through continuous assessment and improvement.
  • Accreditation expects an institution to develop a balanced governing structure designed to promote institutional integrity, autonomy, and flexibility of operation.
  • Accreditation expects an institution to ensure that its programs are complemented by support structures and resources that allow for the total growth and development of its students.