The glossary below provides definitions for terms related to ACCPAS and the accreditation process. Click on the term to see the definition.


Accreditation is a process by which an institution or disciplinary unit within an institution periodically evaluates its work and seeks an independent judgment by peers that it achieves substantially its own educational objectives and meets the established standards of the body from which it seeks accreditation. Typically, the accreditation process includes 1) a self-evaluative description (self-study) of the institution or unit, 2) an on-site review by a team of evaluators, and 3) judgment by an accreditation decision-making body, normally called a Commission. Accreditation reviews focus on educational quality, institutional integrity, and educational improvements.

Accreditation by ACCPAS is granted to community and precollegiate arts institutions, schools and programs meeting all standards of ACCPAS. Institutions approved for the first time are granted five-year periods of accreditation. At the end of five years, the institution is expected to apply for renewal of accreditation.

Accrediting Body, Agency, or Association

An Accrediting Body, Agency, or Association is a non-governmental entity that sets standards for accreditation, administers the process of accreditation, and provides assistance as it is able to institutions, programs, students, parents, and the general public.

Application for Accreditation

An Application for Accreditation is the formal request for accreditation submitted by an institution to an accrediting body confirming that the institution is committed to the voluntary process of self-evaluation and peer review, ready to begin the process, and cognizant of the standards and guidelines that will be applied by the accrediting body. The ACCPAS review process is initiated by submission of the Notice of Intention to Apply form. The Application for Membership form is submitted with the Self-Study.

Application for Membership Form

Three copies of the Application for Membership form are to be submitted to the National Office at least four weeks prior to the on-site visit along with the catalogs, supportive materials, and copies of the Self-Study document. This form must be signed by the chief executive officer in the case of initial applications and by the school executive for all institutions previously granted accreditation.

Basic Criteria for Accreditation

To confirm eligibility for institutional membership, institutions must first demonstrate compliance with a series of 13 short threshold statements designed to show institutional and/or program viability. These Basic Criteria for Membership cover such areas as basic curricular elements; length of time an institution or program has been operating; presence of qualified faculty and adequate facilities; publication of accurate admissions, program, and cost information; and compliance with state and local codes and other accrediting agencies. The Basic Criteria for Accreditation can be found in the ACCPAS Handbook, Standards for Accreditation I.B. Further information.


Certification is a process by which a non-governmental organization grants recognition to a person who has met certain predetermined qualifications specified by that organization and who voluntarily seeks such recognition. ACCPAS does not certify individuals or units.

Community Arts School

Community arts schools offer programs of arts study for children, youth, and adults in the institution’s local community. These range from early childhood programs to private instruction to large institutionalized programs with specialized professional faculty and administration. Normally, these schools do not offer elementary, middle, or high school studies that include general education.

Directory List

ACCPAS publishes an online Directory List that provides the names of all accredited member institutions, their addresses, telephone numbers, school executives, and degree programs. The Directory is the official accreditation listing for ACCPAS member institutions. The Association also makes mailing labels available for purchase through its website. Further information.

Final Approval for Listing

Final Approval for Listing is granted when ACCPAS has reviewed an application including validation of the Plan Approved curriculum through evidence of completion. Evidence for three students is required. The format for submitting evidence consistent with Plan Approval documentation should be secured from the National Office. When the curriculum has received Final Approval for Listing, the program is listed in the CAAA/ACCPAS Directory in regular type. Further information.


The ACCPAS Handbook includes Standards and Guidelines for Accreditation, the Code of Ethics for schools, and the Rules of Practice and Procedure for schools and the Commission. When applicable, new or amended standards that have been ratified by the ACCPAS Membership and/or the Commission are available as addenda to the Handbook. Further information.

Institutional Autonomy

Institutional Autonomy is the principle whereby standards are applied with profound respect for the rights and responsibilities of institutions and programs to identify, designate, and control 1) their missions, goals, and objectives; 2) artistic, educational, and philosophical principles and methodologies used to pursue functions implicit in their various missions, goals, and objectives; 3) specific repertories, texts, and other teaching materials utilized for study and presentation; 4) agendas and areas of study pursued through scholarship, research, criticism, and policy development; 5) specific personnel choices, staffing configurations, and other operational decisions; and 6) content and methodologies of tests, evaluations, and assessments.

Institutional Integrity

Institutional Integrity is the outwardly displayed ability of an entity to set and adhere to a code of values marked by traits such as reasonable conduct, enactment and consistent use of fair and orderly procedures, honesty in all proceedings, respect for human beings, and means of ensuring that it is providing the educational services it says it is providing to the public.


Licensure is a process by which an agency of government grants permission to 1) persons meeting predetermined qualifications to engage in a given occupation and/or to use a particular title, and 2) institutions to perform specified functions. ACCPAS does not license individuals or institutions.

On-Site Evaluation

On-site evaluation consists of an on-site visit to an institution or disciplinary unit by a team of trained evaluators. The on-site review follows the completion of the self-study and the submission of the self-study report to the accrediting body and evaluators. The visit enables the evaluation team to determine the accuracy and completeness of the self-study and to provide additional information and/or confirmation of existing information to the Commission on Accreditation. Further information.

Plan Approval

Plan Approval is required after initial institutional approval and before students are admitted into a new program. The application for Plan Approval normally includes information concerning the structure of the new program as well as data concerning the faculty, library, equipment, and/or other resources necessary for its support. When a program has received Plan Approval, it is listed in the CAAA/ACCPAS Directory List in italics. Further information.

Public Interest/Public Members

Since accrediting bodies provide judgments about institutional educational quality and institutional integrity, there is public interest in the activities of accrediting bodies as well as institutions. To ensure the inclusion of the public’s interest, a representative of the public is a member of the accrediting Commissions. Further information.

Self-Regulation/Peer Review

Self-Regulation/Peer Review is based on the recognition that most human activities work best when participation and consensus are foundational principles of decision-making. Accreditation is a voluntary, non-governmental activity, and an advocate for institutional autonomy that plays a major role in preserving the self-regulatory quality of American education. Other dimensions of self-regulation in education include the maintaining of guidelines for, and institutional commitment to, good practice and ethical behavior.


A Self-Study is a process that normally produces comprehensive written analysis of the educational resources and effectiveness of an arts institution or unit in relation to its educational objectives. Further information.