Home   /   Accreditation ABCs Home  /  Standards

Accreditation ABCs

Standards and Guidelines

On the CAAHEP website you will find a document for your profession that is named “Standards and Guidelines.” Almost everything you do relates to this document; become familiar with it.


In practical terms, any "standard" is a rule; it's a requirement; it's a hurdle; it's a principle.

In the larger American context, "freedom of speech," protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, is a famous example of a standard.

The language of a standard is not, generally, extremely precise; standards allow for judgments to be made. We have spent centuries in the United States making judgments about whether we meet the "freedom of speech" standard, for example.

In the CAAHEP context, quality educational programs meet or exceed a collection of standards (often called "The Standards" or "The CAAHEP Standards") for educational programs in a profession.

In the CAAHEP environment, the Standards are expressions of desirable traits that have been proposed, discussed, and sometimes revised many times before they are the "official" statements. Members of professions, educators, program directors and others have reviewed them and debated them. Public hearings have been held.

So, the Standards can, and periodically do change, but change happens only slowly, deliberately, and with major effort. Standards are, as close as humanly possible, statements of consensus about quality in educational programs.

Over periods of years and decades, consensus may shift, professions may change in ways that suggest educational change, and Standards will keep up. But, for your purposes, it is best to treat the current Standards as givens.

When it comes time for you to analyze the success of your own program at meeting Standards, you will find that the best way to assure that everyone understands you have met any Standard is to exceed it.

In practical terms, a Guideline is good advice about meeting a Standard; it's a reflection of broad consensus about good practice; it's a statement of conventional wisdom. A Guideline is not a rule, requirement, hurdle or principle.

Guidelines express hard-fought wisdom that you definitely should consider. But -- and this is important -- innovation almost always challenges conventional wisdom. If you have an opportunity to sidestep that wisdom and do something better, you will probably have to explain how your choice helps to achieve the Standard, but your program isn't judged on its adherence to a Guideline. Your program can only be judged on its relationship to a Standard.

Guidelines are written through the same process as Standards. Like Standards, they change over time.

Read the Guidelines; think about them; follow them when you don't have a better idea. But concentrate on Standards

To review your profession's Standards and Guidelines, please see the Program Directors section of the CAAHEP website.