The Accreditation Process
Prior to Application
The Executive Director, Chief Executive Officer (ED/CEO) of a special education agency, or his/her designee, interested in seeking accreditation should visit the NCASES Website or contact the NCASES office for detailed information regarding the accreditation process, at which time the agency gains "correspondent status." An agency considering NCASES Accreditation should review the Standards and any other supplementary materials posted on the NCASES Website (ncases.org). One or more members of the agency should attend the How to Prepare for Accreditation Workshop held during the NAPSEC Annual Leadership Conference. Finally, the agency’s ED/CEO, or his/her designee, should contact the NCASES office with any questions regarding the accreditation process.
Submitting an Application
The applicant agency will get the application from the NCASES Website, which is subsequently completed by the agency and submitted to NCASES as formal notification of the agency's intention to apply. When the agency completes the NCASES application and submits the required application fee, it achieves "applicant status." The application window expires one year following receipt of the above materials or at the date of accreditation expiration in the case of a re-accreditation application. Within the application window, the agency must complete a Self-Study and have the NCASES Site Review completed. There are isolated instances when, due to the Site Reviewers’ schedules or extenuating circumstances, (see Extension of Accreditation) the year deadline may be extended. All activities necessary for completing the accreditation process are outlined in detail in Appendix A – Step by Step Guide to Accreditation.
Choosing Site Review Dates
At least 120 days before the first requested Site Review date the agency must submit their requested Site Review dates to the NCASES office. The agency submits five potential Site Review dates. All Site Reviews run from Monday to Wednesday (with the Team arriving on Sunday evening), so the submitted dates must correspond to these days. No agency may schedule a Site Review at a time outside its normal schedule of operations (e.g., during agency vacations, during significantly modified services such as scaled down summer programming).
Costs and Payment Schedule
Fees are determined and approved by the NCASES Board of Directors. An agency is responsible for all costs associated with the NCASES Accreditation: 1) an application fee, 2) an accreditation fee, and 3) the Site Review Team’s expenses. Site Review Team expenses include costs associated with travel, lodging, and meals incurred during the course of the Site Review. The NCASES’s office will make every effort to minimize travel costs to the agency when selecting Site Review Team members. The size of the Site Review Team varies depending upon the size of the agency. See Section VI below for the parameters used to determine Site Review Team size.
The payment of the application fee begins the one-year window for the completion of the accreditation process. The application fee is non-refundable. The accreditation fee payment schedule is listed below. (For details regarding invoicing and payment see Agency Guide to Accreditation).
· One half (1/2) of the accreditation fee is due within 30 days of receipt of invoice.
· The remainder of the accreditation fee is due no later than 30 days prior to the scheduled Site Review.
· Site Review Team reimbursements are due within 14 days of receipt of invoice.
Accreditation fees are refundable up to 30 days prior to the scheduled Site Review. However, if an agency terminates its accreditation application after the Site Review Team has made arrangements for traveling to the agency for the Site Review, then the agency will be responsible for these expenses. These expenses will be deducted from the refund.
All accreditation fees must be paid before the Site Review is begun. All Site Review reimbursements must be paid before accreditation will be awarded.
The Self Study is an integral part of the accreditation process. During the Self-Study, the agency evaluates itself against NCASES’ Standards for Accreditation using the NCASES Self-Study Guide. If the agency believes a standard(s) to be not applicable, the agency must seek confirmation through the NCASES office prior to Site Review. The Self-Study must be completed at least 60 days prior to the date of the Site Review. Based on the outcome of the Self-Study, the agency can continue onto the Site Review phase of the accreditation process by submitting the results of the Self-Study to the NCASES office or decide to stop the accreditation process at that point.
Agencies that withdraw at this point from the accreditation process will be refunded the accreditation fees they have paid and do not have to pay the second half of the accreditation fee (see Section III D for the payment schedule). However, if an agency decides to terminate its accreditation application after the Site Review Team has made arrangements for traveling to the agency for the Site Review, then the agency will be responsible for these expenses. If the agency has paid their accreditation fee, these expenses will be deducted from the fees before the refund is given.
Structuring the Self-Study
The Self-Study is an intensive and time-consuming process that provides the agency with an invaluable opportunity to reflect on and document its processes and services. Done correctly, the agency gains a stronger sense of its strengths and areas for potential improvement. Since every agency differs in size and complexity there is no “one size fits all” approach to structuring the Self Study.
To complete the Self Study the following process is suggested:
· Each participant in the Self Study process will receive an orientation to the process and have access to the Standards.
· The applicant agency should form a steering committee. The steering committee can consist of senior administrators/professionals, representation from the board, and a representative from each sub-committee. The function of the steering committee is to determine what tasks need to be accomplished, set deadlines for task completion, update the Self Study checklist, maintain a file of documentation for each standard, and determine when to submit the Self Study results to the NCASES office.
· Sub-committees can be formed to focus on specific sections of the Standards. For example, one subcommittee works on the agency and administration’s section checklist, while a second sub-committee works on the personnel checklist, while a third sub-committee works on the services checklist, etc. The membership of each sub-committee should be those staff with the most in-depth knowledge of the area being assessed. The function of each sub-committee is to objectively assess its area of responsibility, collect the primary product documents listed in the Self Study guide, and to provide feedback to the steering committee.
· If the agency is unsure of how to interpret, or document, a standard the agency should contact the NCASES office.
· If an agency believes a standard to be not applicable, the agency must seek through the NCASES office to receive confirmation from the Commission prior to the Site Review.
· Each sub-committee’s checklist, along with primary documentation for each standard addressed, and any recommendations are sent to the steering committee according to set deadlines.
· Once in receipt of all sub committee reports, the steering committee should make its recommendation to the agency’s ED/CEO. Three recommendations are possible: 1) submit the Self Study to the NCASES office and continue with the accreditation process, 2) postpone the submission of the Self-Study to the NCASES office until areas of non-compliance can be addressed, or 3) withdraw from the accreditation process.
Click here to download the Self Study.