Frequently Asked Questions

What is ACCPAS?

The Accrediting Commission for Community and Precollegiate Arts Schools (ACCPAS) was established by the Council of Arts Accrediting Associations in 2000 to review and accredit schools and programs providing non-degree instruction in the arts disciplines to children, youth, and adults. ACCPAS does not review undergraduate or graduate degrees, or programs providing professional credentials in an art form.

What is CAAA?

The Council of Arts Accrediting Associations (CAAA) members are the National Association of Schools of Music, founded 1924; the National Association of Schools of Art and Design, founded 1944; the National Association of Schools of Theatre, founded 1965; and the National Association of Schools of Dance, founded 1981. Among them, these organizations accredit over 1,000 institutions or programs in the arts, primarily in conservatories, colleges, universities, and independent schools of the arts.

Why has CAAA established ACCPAS?

The member organizations of CAAA have always had a deep interest in arts education for children, youth, and adults. Two of the organizations have accredited community and precollegiate schools for over 20 years. CAAA organizations began to be approached by institutions and groups seeking accreditation services for schools with community or precollegiate missions that offer focused programs in one or more of the arts disciplines. After broad consultation, the best solution was the establishment of a separate Accrediting Commission by organizations with a long and successful track record in arts accreditation. This approach preserves the autonomy that accreditation procedures need to be credible, without duplicating the efforts of other organizations working in the community and precollegiate field.

What kinds of schools are eligible for ACCPAS accreditation?

Schools that offer instruction in one or more arts disciplines are eligible if they meet the Basic Criteria for Membership outlined in the ACCPAS Handbook. In summary, schools offering community education in an institutional structure that includes an administration and a board of directors or a school board are eligible. Schools offering early childhood, elementary, middle school, and high school programs are eligible if at least 20% of the required instructional time or credits to graduate are devoted to one or more of the arts. Community and/or precollegiate schools may be public or private, independent, part of a system, or affiliated with an institution of higher education. In AACPAS terminology, school refers to the entity delivering community and/or precollegiate arts instruction.

What standards does ACCPAS use?

The standards used by ACCPAS are established by CAAA after broad consultation. These standards reflect over two decades of experience in accrediting community and precollegiate programs by members of CAAA. In establishing the ACCPAS standards, CAAA consults with individuals having long experience as leaders of precollegiate and community arts education. The initial set of standards will evolve as the experiences of CAAA member organizations, ACCPAS, ACCPAS-accredited institutions, and expertise in the community and precollegiate fields continue to influence standards changes.

What procedure does ACCPAS use?

The ACCPAS accreditation procedure involves a Self-Study by the school, a visit by an ACCPAS team that produces a Visitors’ Report, an Optional Response to the Visitors’ Reports by the school, and action by ACCPAS. ACCPAS publishes detailed procedures for the accreditation review.

Does ACCPAS provide consultation to schools?

Yes. Consultation is available to assist institutions in assessing readiness for, or preparing for, an accreditation review. The consultant is hired by and works for the school. The consultant’s recommendations are purely advisory and do not control later accreditation decisions.

Are there requirements beyond the accreditation standards?

ACCPAS requires accredited institutions to abide by a Code of Ethics and a set of Rules of Practice and Procedure. These requirements, along with the standards, bring completeness and integrity to a school’s relationship with accreditation and with ACCPAS.

How are CAAA and ACCPAS governed?

A nine-member Board of Trustees governs CAAA: the Presidents and Vice Presidents of each of the member Associations, and the Executive Director of the Associations in common, ex officio. The Council establishes advisory committees on various aspects of its work, including community and precollegiate arts education. ACCPAS has six voting members: CAAA elects a Chair and a public member, the President of each constituent organization of CAAA appoints one member. Except for the public member, each member must have extensive accreditation experience. Therefore, ACCPAS has expertise in dance, music, theatre, and the visual arts. The Executive Director of ACCPAS has the authority to appoint consultants to bring additional expertise to the work of the Commission. Both CAAA and ACCPAS are governed by published documents that include extensive procedures to avoid conflicts of interest. Specific policies and organizational principles provide numerous checks and balances in each accreditation review.

How does ACCPAS accredit unique schools and programs?

ACCPAS standards recognize that, to some extent, every institution is unique. Therefore, the standards focus on functions to be served rather than methodologies to be employed. The standards also require that each institution declare its particular mission, goals, and objectives. This self-declaration becomes a primary basis for the accreditation review. ACCPAS accreditation will not attempt to make one school like another. Schools with similar purposes will be encouraged to fulfill them in their own way.

Who visits for ACCPAS?

ACCPAS reviewers will be from among individuals with significant experience in arts accreditation. There will be at least one team member with expertise in each arts discipline offered by an applicant school. Individuals with long experience in community and precollegiate education and arts accreditation will be involved. When a school applies, ACCPAS nominates a slate of visitors from which the institution makes choices.

Who manages the ACCPAS process?

The National Office for Arts Accreditation is in Reston, Virginia. This office serves the four national associations that comprise the Council of Arts Accrediting Associations. Organizations in this office have decades of accreditation experience, and the National Office staff is able to operate accreditation systems efficiently, fairly, and effectively.

How much does ACCPAS accreditation cost?

The application fee for ACCPAS accreditation is $500. The institution is also responsible for the expenses of the visiting team. ACCPAS visitors and Commission members are volunteers. They receive no compensation. The application fee covers the operations of ACCPAS. Following accreditation, each institution pays $275 per year as a correspondence fee.

How should we decide if our school should seek ACCPAS accreditation?

ACCPAS accreditation is offered as a professional service to schools that offer community and precollegiate education in the arts. Normally, schools seeking accreditation have reached a point in their growth that the accreditation process is judged to be useful in developing the future of the school. For some, accreditation is an organized means of assessing the present and planning for the future. For others, it provides a means of reviewing the parts of the school and their relationships to the whole. Some institutions find that accreditation status is important to funders and donors. Others wish to establish a continuing program of evaluation for purposes of accountability. Still others wish to have their programs and practices backed by a body of national standards in order to support stability and continuity in their pursuit of excellence. These and many other rationales, combine within a school in various proportions. The accreditation process represents an investment, and each institution must make its own determination about the value of that investment to its future.