Amendment to PAB's 2012 Accreditation Standards, Draft Two - November 2016

Draft Two of the Amendment to the Accreditation Standards is now available for public comment. The public comment period is open from November 17 to December 18, 2016. Comments will be accepted only via SurveyMonkey.

Please note: The SurveyMonkey site provides the amendment’s proposed language only. In order to compare the current standards with the proposed changes, please click on “Draft Two Amendment to Accreditation Standards” in the column on the right. There you will find a marked copy of the amendment accompanied by rationale language explaining the changes.

PAB will be releasing its amended standards in early 2017. Programs currently undergoing accreditation review and those going through in the 2017-2018 academic year should continue to use the 2012 standards.

Click here to provide your comments.

Thank you for participating in this important process.

Message from PAB Chair, Barry Nocks, Ph.D., FAICP
Background Supporting Draft Two of the Amendment to the Accreditation Standards

The Planning Accreditation Board (PAB) currently accredits 86 bachelor’s and master’s degree programs at 75 universities in the US, its territories, and Canada. PAB is an independent organization, with both Board appointees and financial support from the academic side through member schools of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) and professionally through the American Planning Association (APA) and its American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP). PAB’s standards set minimum expectations for programs to meet for accreditation. PAB is recognized by the Commission on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), is a member of the Association of Specialized and Professional Accreditors (ASPA), and adheres to the ASPA Code of Good Practice.

PAB reviews its standards on a regular basis and has periodically revised them to improve clarity, update planning curricula, and address both CHEA requirements and changes in programmatic accreditation. In 2015, PAB published the initial draft of its most recent proposed amendment to the standards. The first of two public comment periods generated numerous comments, which were reviewed with many incorporated into the second draft of the amendment. In particular, most of the specific suggestions proposed by the Boards of AICP/APA and ACSP were incorporated in the second draft of the Standards, although some language may have been modified in consultation with our attorney. The second draft is available for your review in the column on the right.

A majority of comments related to diversity. Following the 2016 US Supreme Court decision on a case related to student diversity in university admissions, PAB sought additional legal advice in redrafting the specific criteria related to diversity of students and faculty, as well as within the curriculum and an institution’s goals and objectives.

The goal of accreditation is to ensure that education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality. Accrediting organizations develop standards based on minimum thresholds, then execute an assessment process designed to ensure consistent and fair application of those standards across the broad spectrum of degree programs.

Nothing about threshold assessments, however, prevents programs and institutions from doing more. The aspirational outcome of accreditation is to improve educational quality. Standards are a floor, not a ceiling.

Criteria Related to Diversity
PAB believes students will join an increasingly diverse workforce and will work in diverse communities affected by global pressures. PAB does not and cannot specifically define diversity for each planning program, however, as it differs among and across the myriad of institutions in PAB’s scope of accreditation. Diversity is not limited to race, although data supporting that concept has been used to identify whether sufficient diversity was present in the faculty and student populations. PAB is often not satisfied with those results; nor is the planning academy as was clearly indicated by the comments received to the initial draft of the proposed amendment to the accreditation standards.

The revised draft amendment presents, in PAB’s opinion, language regarding diversity of students, faculty, and curriculum that provides enough force to compel change while allowing for institutional flexibility. The proposed language will result in enhanced consistency in the assessment of compliance with PAB standards. This language has been developed in consultation with attorneys engaged in higher education issues to insure that it is not inconsistent with recent court decisions.
The language in the revised amendment focuses on programs setting specific goals and being assessed on the success of their efforts to improve diversity of both students and faculty. Furthermore, programs must reject discrimination and create an inclusive environment within their legal limits. Consistent with the recent Fisher decision, programs shall provide evidence of continuous assessment of progress in achieving their diversity-related goals.

PAB has a policy to review its standards for modification no less frequently than every 5 years. The 2012 standards and those that preceded them did not generate a level of diversity in faculty and students that satisfied the academy or the profession. The amended standards will, we believe, move planning education forward towards meeting this objective.

Goals for the Proposed Amendment
PAB seeks the following outcomes in this amendment process:
• Clarify standards approved in 2012
• Feedback was solicited from 3 beta programs, 2 years of implementation (33 programs and teams), 2 in-person feedback sessions at APA and ACSP conferences, special-purpose questions added to post Site Visit surveys, and a comprehensive benchmarking analysis of programmatic accreditors.
• Create a clear and thoughtful program planning framework focused on principles, outcomes, and accountability by making a more direct linkage between mission, strategic planning, progress, outcomes assessment and programmatic improvement
• Add consideration of distance education modality
• Improve consistency in reviews with regard to issues of diversity by making the relevant standards more effective, less subjective, within program control, and consistent with current legal requirements

Major Changes
The substantive coverage of the 2012 Standards remains. We have proposed several specific changes:
• Standards reduced from 7 to 5; criteria reduced from 35 to 27; outcomes stressed and inputs reduced
• Language added addressing distance learning
• Consolidation of Standard 1: Mission and Strategic Plan with Standard 6: Program Assessment and Standard 7: Progress
• Differentiation made between programmatic and student learning outcomes
• Removal of student size criterion
• Diversity goals now required in strategic plans; additional modifications made to standards for students, faculty, and curriculum.

Important Documents

Draft Two Amendment to Accreditation Standards (PDF)

(File Download: 477kB)

This marked copy of the amendment includes the existing standards marked for changes accompanied by rationale language explaining the changes.

Public Comments

(File Download: 49kB)

This document contains comments received November 17 through December 5, 2016. All comments will be posted once the public comment period has closed on December 18, 2016

PAB Existing Standards

(File Download: 425kB)

Amendment and Revision Procedures

Approval Process and Implementation – Key dates