Standards Overview

An Overview of ACCPAS Standards for Accreditation

The full and authoritative text of ACCPAS standards is published in ACCPAS Handbook. This overview introduces and summarizes the standards but is not the text used to make accreditation decisions. The overview presents the structure of the standards and indicates relationships among them. The standards begin with purposes and continue to address operational, programmatic, and planning issues.


Each school must have published statements of purpose that define its unique mission, goals, and objectives. These statements are the basis for artistic, educational, and operational decisions and fundamental to the accreditation review. They define what the school does, and thus what it does not do.

Basic Operational Elements

The following operational elements must be structured and function to support the purposes of the school and its programs:
    • Size and Scope
    • Finances
    • Governance and Administrative
    • Faculty and Staff
    • Learning Resources

Basic Operational Requirements

    • The school must be appropriately licensed and/or chartered.
    • It must have sufficient resources.
    • It must be safe and have policies to promote health and safety.
    • There must be clear published policies regarding recruitment, admission, retention, record-keeping, advisement, and financial aid.
    • All published materials must be clear and accurate.
    • There must be established mechanisms for working with parents/guardians.
    • The school must be engaged in evaluation, planning, and projecting.

Programs and Curricula

The mission, goals, and objectives of each school defines the specific art forms and areas within each art form that will be offered by the school.

At base, programs offered must demonstrate that:
    • Students are achieving a measurable degree of advancement toward the fulfillment of clearly defined program goals and objectives;
    • Students are appropriately engaged and/or are developing an effective work process;
    • Students are acquiring a body of knowledge and skills sufficient for evaluation and a level of competence acceptable for presentation within and/or beyond the school;
    • Institutional performance with respect to the operational elements and requirements supports achievement of the general and program standards applicable to the program.
If the school offers certificates or diplomas, in addition to operational and general program standards:
    • Specific coherent goals and objectives shall be developed and published that include, but are not limited to, (a) subject matter, techniques, or issues to be addressed; (b) content, methods, and perspectives used to consider subject matter, techniques, or issues; (c) expectations regarding breadth and depth; (d) aspirations for specific artistic, intellectual, or disciplinary engagement.
    • Operational assessments shall reveal consistent achievement of goals and objectives.
    • A program’s title shall be consistent with its content. Published materials shall be clear about the level and length of any certificate or diploma (or equivalent) program.
    • Applicable prerequisites for courses or curricula shall be clearly stated, especially with regard to levels of competence in specific disciplines central to the artistic or educational purposes and content of the certificate or diploma (or equivalent).
    • Guidance, counseling, and mentoring shall be adequate to support the achievement of purposes.
    • There must be clear descriptions of what students are expected to know and be able to do upon completion and effective mechanisms for assessing student competencies against these expectations.
    • Evaluation mechanisms shall be consistent with the goals defined for specific courses, projects, programs, or curricula, and to the specific approach(es) involved.

Principles for Applying Standards in the Accreditation Process

In summary, the accreditation of community arts, and precollegiate schools is based upon:
    • the mission, goals and objectives set forth by the individual school;
    • the manner in which the goals and objectives relate to standards for accreditation generally characteristic of educational institutions as defined by ACCPAS;
    • the comprehensive presentation of the educational philosophy and concepts that determine these goals and objectives; and
    • the degree to which these goals and objectives have been achieved.
Standards are applied recognizing that:
    • a unique relationship exists in each school between operations (goals, objectives, resources, policies, etc.) and programs (lessons, curriculum, presentations, research, public service, etc.) and
    • evaluation and management of this relationship are crucial to the effectiveness with which the school shapes its programs, relates them to its mission and goals, and produces educational results.

Standards concerning operations and those concerning disciplinary content are used in the context of this relationship as the institution undertakes self study, as on-site visitors review the school, as ACCPAS reaches the accreditation decision, and as the institution continues working on its own terms to develop and evaluate its programs.

ACCPAS standards do not promote standardization. While each school will have a mission, no two will be exactly alike. For example, while each accredited school must demonstrate adequate finances, no two institutions will approach this matter in the same way, or have the same set of needs. The standards address functions to be served rather than methodologies to be employed.