APR Update: Pre-Review Checks

by Deborah Gentry, Ed.D., CFLE, NCFR Academic Program Liaison
CFLE Network

Members of the CFLE Academic Program Review (APR) Committee for 2016 are eager to get busy reviewing some first-time approval application materials. Before ongoing members Dorothy Berglund, Marty Covey, Mallory Lucier-Greer, Alice Grimes, Jennifer Reinke, and Bethanne Shriner, along with new members Lee Bidwell, Helyne Frederick, Claire Kimberly, Sherria Taylor, and Michael Walcheski, join me in reviewing various documents (primarily a narrative and detailed syllabi) submitted in coming weeks and months, there are a number of conditions that NCFR staff check for and assess. When academic program representatives contact me by email or approach me at conferences with questions about the first-time approval process, I alert them to the following conditions that must be present before proceeding to ready and submit various documents.

First, the academic program seeking first-time approval must be located at an institution accredited by a well-regarded regional agency that oversees the accreditation of Baccalaureate institutions. Commonly accepted agencies include Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and Western Association of Schools and Colleges. In rare situations, other accrediting agencies may be determined to be acceptable, particularly if it can be demonstrated that their former students have had their coursework accepted (e.g., for transfer) by institutions that are indeed accredited by one of the agencies listed above. An academic program situated within an accredited institution provides a level of assurance that quality measures and accountability-related activities are conducted on a regular basis.

Second, among the faculty and staff (e.g., an academic advisor or a department chairperson) working with students enrolled in the academic program, there must be someone who is a member of NCFR, as well as one who maintains the CFLE designation. Though one individual could fulfill both conditions, it is always a plus when multiple faculty and staff are NCFR members and/or CFLEs. It is simply good practice for students to have role models who 1) visibly value NCFR membership and CFLE status and 2) can answer questions about the organization, CFLE designation, and benefits of the APR effort. If a faculty or staff member evidences commitment to pursuing the CFLE designation via means of examination while early stages of review are taking place, some allowances regarding this expectation may be made.

Though the previous conditions are "musts," there are other conditions that are "highly recommended." One is that the faculty and staff who will be critical to the program's success, should the program eventually be approved, have carefully considered how well the courses they intend to have listed on the CFLE APR Checklist match the expectations of the ten CFLE Content Areas and Internship/Practicum and concluded there is a high degree of compatibility. APR Committee reviewers' time is a precious commodity. If, after initial review, significant reworking of numerous courses is necessary, then reviewers will devote additional time for purposes of a second review. The entire APR endeavor is likely to be more efficient and satisfying for all involved when the components of the academic program fit well with the CFLE APR content related expectations from the "get go."

Review related results will also come about more efficiently and satisfyingly when key players associated with the academic program are well informed about and supportive of the APR process. It is of considerable benefit to the faculty or staff person carrying out the tasks of readying and submitting documents for review, as well as responding to reviewers' feedback, when his or her fellow colleagues and lead administrator(s) are all onboard with the initiative. Thus, another "highly recommended" action is to convene key players on a regular basis for purposes of providing information, planning, decision-making, and sharing progress reports. The readying of a high quality narrative and set of syllabi often depends on insightful and prompt input from a variety of people.

While the newly revised CFLE APR Directions and Guidelines outlines what the narrative component of a first-time application entails, it is briefly recounted below. (Another recent column in this newsletter addressed "HOWs" and "WHYs" of preparing thorough and complete syllabi for submission. Please check it out, too.)

  • Program mission statement.
  • Program description including the number of students currently enrolled in the program as well the number of students graduating from the program in each of the last two years.
  • Program objectives or student learning outcomes.
  • Requirements for completion of the degree including the number of credits required, degree plan or list of required courses and how courses are offered (semester or quarter basis, online).
  • Information on transfer credits eligible for pre-approval as a course substitution. There are many circumstances where CFLE requirements are not the same as degree requirements. NCFR will not automatically accept transfer credits in place of NCFR CFLE-approved courses because the criteria used by a school in accepting transfer credits may be different than the criteria used by NCFR in evaluating coverage of the CFLE content areas. Transfer courses are still considered substitutes to the approved course on a CFLE checklist and must be approved by NCFR by following the substitution process. However, in the situation where numerous students will be using the same transfer course as part of their CFLE application, the institution can submit information to NCFR for review as a pre-approved substitution. This will eliminate the need for each applicant to have to submit the transfer course syllabus to NCFR.
  • A list of the most frequently used sites for the FLE-oriented internship (up to 10).
  • The narrative should also include information on how the program, once approved, intends to promote the availability of the CFLE Abbreviated Application Process to students, as well as how students who wish to pursue the CFLE designation will be advised and mentored.

I would like to extend my genuine thanks to Kristie Chandler, Janet Crow, Michael Fleming, Tammy Harpel, Melinda Markham, Tara Newman, and Meeshay Wheeler for their services on the CFLE APR Committee during this and previous years. Together with the ongoing members I mentioned when opening this column, they shared their wisdom and good judgment while helping to review and approve three new academic programs during this calendar year. I am excited to see what 2016 has in store for us. Bring on some more submissions. We are ready!

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