The world of concurrent enrollment is growing in capacity and complexity. As the national voice for this constituency, NACEP must be prepared for, and responsive to, these trends. Thanks to the visionary and diligent work of our predecessors, NACEP is very well positioned to significantly raise the profile of concurrent enrollment and expand its support for members’ programs.
Evolution of NACEP’s Accreditation Process
NACEP’s inception in the late 1990′s was driven by college administrators who sought to create a framework of best practices to provide the emerging concurrent enrollment field with guidance and measurable benchmarks by which to gauge the quality of their individual programs. Equally important, the results of this benchmarking could be used to raise the visibility of concurrent enrollment as a preferred method by which high school students could earn college credits.
A third reason for NACEP’s creation was to extend post-secondary accreditation to programs offering college courses taught by qualified high school instructors in the high schools. Accreditors of post-secondary institutions did not have any standards for such courses. Regional institutional accreditation clearly applied to other forms of dual enrollment: high school students taught by college faculty on- and off-campus. To meet this need for extending the accreditation umbrella, the NACEP definition of concurrent enrollment was born.
Through several years of discussions among these concurrent enrollment administrators, a common understanding of the standards emerged. The ensuing accreditation peer review process was relatively straightforward at that time.
Demands Upon NACEP are Changing, Especially in the Area of Accreditation
In the past ten years our environment has changed dramatically. While the “first generation” of concurrent enrollment partnerships were established by individual institutions in a bottom-up movement, our current reality is one in which state and national policies often mandate that colleges and high schools participate.
At the state level, in particular, policy makers increasingly look to NACEP’s standards and accreditation process as the benchmarks of excellence for concurrent enrollment. Programs may be encouraged or required to apply for accreditation, despite having limited exposure to NACEP and the standards. To assist programs put in this position, NACEP’s peer reviewers have been providing a much higher level of coaching and mentoring during accreditation reviews than was anticipated when the standards were created.
Separating Program Development from Accreditation Reviews
The volume of programs applying for accreditation is increasing—we have more than 30 in 2011. NACEP must find a balance between the needs of member programs and the capacity and appropriateness of volunteer peer reviewers providing coaching at the same time they conduct accreditation reviews. Consequently, as part of the strategic plan adopted by the Board of Directors, NACEP is working to separate formative program development from summative accreditation review. A Program Development Action Team has been formed to provide leadership in developing new products and services for NACEP members and to establish support systems to assist programs in implementing NACEP standards prior to applying for accreditation.
The Action Team’s first objective is to launch a volunteer Pre-Accreditation Coaching Program to provide the 2011 group of accreditation applicants with guidance and advice in the months prior to their submitting accreditation materials in August. As coaches, experienced concurrent enrollment administrators from accredited programs will answer questions and provide feedback on applicants’ practices and documentation. The goal of this collaboration is to ensure as much as possible that the accreditation review materials are complete at the time of submission. To prevent any conflicts of interest, coaches will not be involved in the decision-making process or final accreditation review of programs they mentor.
More Volunteers are Needed
Additional membership support services and products will be developed as the strategic plan is implemented this year. Among the projects in development are webinars and publications on critical topics for both experienced and new concurrent enrollment professionals. To reach these goals, we hope those of you with expertise will contribute content for webinars and publications and/or offer to serve as informal coaches for your concurrent enrollment colleagues. We will be sending calls for volunteers at various times during this coming year. Please consider assisting your peers around the country through professional service with this great organization.
For its part, the Accreditation Committee, a group of volunteers under the leadership of Becky Carter, has pledged to review all submitted 2011 applications that are complete and ready for accreditation consideration. Anyone with questions, concerns or suggestions regarding this process is urged to contact Becky, Executive Secretary Adam Lowe, or me.
Full-time Paid Staff Position
The areas in which NACEP is being asked to participate and contribute are growing—both internally and externally. To assist with organizing and accomplishing this work, the Board of Directors last year hired Adam Lowe as a temporary, part-time independent contractor to work as NACEP’s Executive Secretary. His contributions to the organization provided compelling evidence for the benefits of having paid professional assistance.
Consequently, a search committee comprised of members of the Board of Directors was formed to recruit and hire a full-time paid employee for NACEP. This search was a competitive process open to all who wished to apply. The search committee posted the position in mid-December, and reviewed more than 200 applications. Four top candidates were interviewed, and a recommendation was made and accepted by the Board that the full-time position be offered to Adam Lowe.
The finalists for the position were enormously talented and experienced. Had Adam not accepted the position, NACEP still would have been very fortunate to have any of the other three candidates as its Executive Secretary.
Your Voice is Important
One of the givens in concurrent enrollment programming is that the issues are as individualized as our students and partners. This is the reality for NACEP as well. At our core we are members, colleagues and volunteers dedicated not only to the constituents of our programs, but also to making concurrent enrollment nationally one of the premier advanced curricular offerings for high school students. To do this, we need the involvement, insights, and goodwill of all of us working together. None of us have all the answers; individual perspectives must be voiced and considered in order for NACEP to be responsive and relevant. I look forward to hearing from you!
Director of Continuing Education Programs
University of Minnesota Duluth