Glossary of accreditation terminology

Key Accreditation Terms
Term Definition
Accreditation A voluntary, non-governmental system of evaluation used to protect the public interest and to verify the quality of service provided by member institutions.
Accreditation actions Any COA decision affecting the accreditation status of a program. These actions are: 1) grant precandidacy, 2) grant candidacy, 3) initially accredit, 4) continue accreditation, 5) conditionally accredit, 6) withdraw accreditation, or 7) deny initial accreditation.
ALISE Association for Library and Information Science Education. The mission of ALISE is to promote excellence in research, teaching, and service for library and information science education.
Appeal The right and process available to a program or institution for a review of the COA’s decision to withdraw accreditation or deny initial accreditation of the program.
ASPA Association of Specialized and Professional Accreditors. ASPA-member accreditors set national educational standards for entry into approximately 40 specialized disciplines or professions. ALA/COA is a member of ASPA and follows its Code of Good Practice.
Assessment Identification, collection, and preparation of data to evaluate the attainment of student learning outcomes. Effective assessment uses relevant direct, indirect, qualitative and quantitative measures appropriate to the outcome being measured.
Biennial narrative report Required report submitted every two years to the COA by a program head. The purpose of the report is to demonstrate continued compliance with the Standards, to share major developments, and to illustrate ongoing program planning.
Candidacy status Accreditation status indicating that the program is ready to begin the two-year process that culminates in the Program Presentation document, comprehensive review of the program, and a COA accreditation decision.
CAO The chief academic officer at an institution of higher education, typically the Provost or Vice President for Academic Affairs.
CEO The chief executive officer at an institution of higher education.
CHEA Council for Higher Education Accreditation. A private, nonprofit national organization that coordinates accreditation activity and recognizes regional, institutional, and professional accrediting agencies in the United States. ALA/COA is recognized by CHEA.
CFLA Canadian Federation of Library Associations.
COA Committee on Accreditation, a standing committee of the American Library Association responsible for the implementation of the accreditation of master's programs in library and information studies. The COA develops and formulates standards of education for library and information studies, as well as policies and procedures for ALA accreditation.
Comprehensive review process Periodic review of a program by the COA to evaluate a program’s compliance with the Standards. The process includes submitting a Self-Study document, a two-day on-site review by an External Review Panel, and a COA accreditation decision.
Conditional accreditation Accreditation status indicating the program’s need for significant and immediate improvement to come into compliance with the Standards.
Conflict of interest Disclosure of any personal, financial, and/or professional interest that might create a conflict with the ability to fairly and objectively carry out one’s responsibilities as an ERP or COA member.
Continued accreditation Accreditation status granted to programs that continuously demonstrate evidence of their conformity to the Standards. Also known as accredited.
Decision document The official document sent to a program’s dean and to the institution’s chief executive officer conveying the COA’saccreditation decision following a comprehensive review.
Directory of institutions offering ALA-accredited master's programs List of library and information studies programs currently accredited by the American Library Association. The directory is available as a searchable database, in PDF format, as a Google Map, and as a list of institutions with accredited programs.
ERP The External Review Panel. A group of two to six library and information faculty and practitioners appointed by the COA through the Office for Accreditation to visit a program and verify information in the Self-Study. Panelists are also vetted by the program to avoid any conflicts of interest.
Evaluation One or more processes for interpreting the data and evidence accumulated through assessment processes. Evaluation determines the extent to which student learning outcomes are being attained. Evaluation results in decisions and actions regarding program improvement.
Initial accreditation Accreditation status granted to a library and information studies program being accredited for the first time.
Institutional accreditation The evaluation and accreditation of an institution as a whole, usually by a regional accreditor. As a prerequisite to accreditation of a program, the ALA requires that the parent institution be accredited by its appropriate institutional accrediting agency. The ALA/COA does not accredit institutions.
Interim reports The annual statistical and biennial narrative reports submitted by programs to COA. The Committee reviews these reports at its spring meeting.
LIS Library and information studies.
OA Director Director of the Office for Accreditation.
On-site visit The part of the comprehensive review in which members of the External Review Panel travel to the program’s location to validate the information contained in the Self-Study.  Also known as the visit or site visit.
Plan for the Self-Study Document submitted by the program to the Office for Accreditation and the ERP Chair one year before the site visit to ensure that the preparation for the review is done in a timely and effective manner.
Precandidacy status Status granted by COA indicating the program’s and institution’s commitment to achieving ALA accreditation.
Program Program of study leading to an ALA-accredited LIS master's degree. ALA-COA accredits programs, not schools or individual degrees.
Program Head The administrator in charge (dean, director, chair, coordinator) of the accredited program or the program seeking accreditation. The program head has primary responsibility for accreditation business and is the main contact.
Program objectives Statements based on the needs of a program’s constituencies that describe what graduates are expected to attain within a few years of graduation.
Public member Two members of the COA who are appointed from the public at large to represent the public interest.
Regional accreditor An agency that accredits institutions of higher education in a specific region of the country.
Retroactive period of initial accreditation Period of time that applies to students who graduated from a program before COA granted initial accreditation to the program. Students who who complete degree requirements in the 24 months prior to the date that initial accreditation is granted are considered to have graduated from an ALA-accredited program.
Schedule of comprehensive reviews The calendar of scheduled comprehensive reviews maintained by the Office for Accreditation. The schedule is available on the Office for Accreditation website as an assurance to the public and the profession that the COA regularly reviews LIS programs.
School An administrative unit (school, college, or department) in an institution of higher education offering one or more programs that lead to an ALA-accredited LIS master’s degree. ALA/COA does not accredit schools.
Self-Study Document prepared by the program as part of the comprehensive review process. This document describes the program, how it meets the ALA Standards for Accreditation, analyzes its strengths, weaknesses, and challenges, and sets forth the program’s plans and goals for future development and continued compliance with the Standards.
Special report Report submitted by a program to the COA to address issues or areas of concern as outlined in the Decision Document or in the COA’s response to a statistical report or biennial narrative report.
Specialized accreditor Agency that accredits post-secondary professional and occupational education programs or schools. ALA/COA is a specialized accreditor.
Standards Standards for Accreditation of Master's Programs in Library and Information Studies. This document identifies the essential features of accredited library and information studies programs.
Statistical report Required statistical information submitted annually to COA. COA reviews data about faculty, students, curriculum, and income and expenditure. The data is collected in cooperation with ALISE. ALISE members compile and analyze the data in the annual publication ALISE Statistical Report and Database.
Student learning outcomes Statements that describe the knowledge, skills and behaviors that students acquire as they progress through the program.
Withdrawn accreditation Accreditation status indicating a program is no longer accredited by ALA, as of the date specified by the COA. A school and institution may voluntarily withdraw its accredited program from the ALA accreditation process. The COA may withdraw accreditation for serious lack of compliance with the Standards, for failure to participate in the process, or for not meeting financial obligations to the COA.