There are five Standards for Accreditation that articulate the quality and effectiveness expected of Accredited institutions, and collectively they provide a framework for continuous improvement within institutions. The five standards also serve as indicators by which institutions are evaluated by peers. The standards are designed to guide institutions in a process of self-reflection that blends analysis and synthesis in a holistic examination of:
- Standard One - Mission, Core Themes, and Expectations
- the institution's Mission and Core Themes
- Standard Two – Resources and Capacity
- the translation of the Mission's Core Themes into assessable objectives supported by programs and services
- Standard Three – Planning and Implementation
- the appraisal of the institution's potential to fulfill the Mission
- Standard Four – Effectiveness and Improvement
- the planning and implementation involved in achieving and assessing the desired outcomes of programs and services
- Standard Five – Mission Fulfillment, Adaptation, and Sustainability
- an evaluation of the results of the institution's efforts to fulfill the Mission and assess its ability to monitor its environment, adapt, and sustain itself as a viable institution
The five Standards for Accreditation are best understood within the context of the seven-year accreditation cycle. Although each is to be addressed during different stages of the cycle (Standard One in year one, Standard Two in year three, Standards Three and Four in year five, and Standard Five in year seven), the standards are interconnected and build upon each other in a recursive cycle of continuous improvement. For that reason, as an institution focuses on a given standard(s) for its Self-Evaluation Report, it does so in light of the standard(s) that have already been addressed, with the result that the information and analysis of previously addressed standards may be updated, expanded, and modified to produce a cohesive report.
Each of the five Standards for Accreditation is designated by a number and title (e.g., Standard One - Mission, Core Themes, and Expectations), and is further defined by elements of the standard, which are designated by the number of the standard followed by the letter of the element (e.g., 1.A Mission). The criteria for evaluation more specifically define the elements and are identified by the number of the standard, followed by the letter of the standard element, followed by the number of the criterion (e.g., 1.A.1). Each standard is introduced by a narrative summary intended only to provide direction, not to be addressed as a criterion.