Preparing for the Accreditation Process
The NATEF staff receives many calls inquiring about the average length of time it takes to complete the accreditation process. This is difficult to answer because many factors must be taken into consideration. Some of the most common factors include: whether this is an initial accreditation or renewal of accreditation, faculty turnover, coordination of efforts at the school level, the involvement of an active advisory committee, and overall organization at the program level.
The following suggestions should help you and your colleagues know what to expect and enable you to better plan for the entire accreditation process. You should also closely review the Procedures section of the accreditation standards for detailed information.
NATEF program accreditation was founded to develop, encourage, and improve automotive education and is nationally recognized and supported by all fifty State Departments of Education. For programs interested in certification, but have not purchased the certification manual, much of this information can be found online at www.natef.org in the “Certification Process” section.
- Purchase the Self-Evaluation Forms & Application for Accreditation/Renewal of Accreditation well in advance. We recommend doing this one-year before you are expected to complete the accreditation/renewal of accreditation process. (The Program Standards are available on our website, and can be downloaded at no cost.) . Budget for the accreditation process. A breakdown of all costs is provided in the Standards (online).
Reference the Evaluation Guide in the Appendix A or view online. This guide includes suggestions for preparing documentation for the accreditation process and was put together for you by instructors, Evaluation Team Leaders (ETLs), and industry experts.
Designate someone to coordinate the accreditation process. One person should be responsible for: leading the self-evaluation process at the school, working with the group to establish a timeline and goals for preparing documentation, dividing responsibilities for preparing the documentation, submitting the application package to NATEF, and coordinating all efforts directly related to the on-site evaluation.
Organize your documentation. Documentation for all standards must be presented in an orderly way. Create a file for each standard and folders for each subsection within the standard. Documentation should be easily identified and placed in the appropriate folders. The folders can be updated after the program is accredited so that the renewal of accreditation process is much easier.
Send all items outlined in the Standards documents to the NATEF office when submitting your application. Many applications are returned due to missing items and will delay the accreditation process.
Allow 30 days for NATEF to review your application. Due to the number of programs that request accreditation/renewal of accreditation, NATEF may take up to 30 days to review your application. Once your application has been reviewed, the program coordinator will be notified about the status of the program.
NATEF will assign an ETL and the program coordinator should contact the ETL in a timely manner. NATEF will make every effort to assign an ETL within 30 days after the program has been approved for an on-site evaluation. It is the school’s responsibility to contact the ETL and arrange the on-site evaluation date that works for everyone.
Send on-site agreement, course of study, and list of on-site evaluation team members to ETL. The ETL is required to cancel the on-site evaluation if they have not received all items listed above at least two weeks prior to the on-site evaluation date.
Work out payment arrangements with your ETL prior to the on-site evaluation. ETLs are to be paid at the time of visit or within 30 days of the on-site evaluation. NATEF policy requires school accreditation to be withheld if an ETL has not been paid in a timely manner.
Confirm team member availability two weeks prior to your scheduled on-site evaluation date. If one of your team members is unable to attend, contact your designated alternate. On-site evaluations are not permitted to proceed without the proper number of team members.
Be prepared for your on-site evaluation. Initial accreditation requires two days; renewal of accreditation generally requires one day. Your ETL will conduct a debriefing meeting at the conclusion of the on-site to review strengths and any weaknesses of your program. The ETL will not be able to tell you whether or not your program will be accredited. The ETL will submit a final report to the NATEF office within one week of the evaluation. Within 30 days of receiving the final report, NATEF will review the report and a decision will be made regarding program accreditation. The program coordinator will be notified in writing of the decision.
- Download and read the entire Standards documents prior to beginning the self-evaluation. Don’t jump right into the forms without having a complete understanding of the policies, procedures and standards.
Review Evaluation Guide: Tips on Self-Evaluation and Documentation in Appendix A & online.
Involve as many people as possible in the entire evaluation process.
PREPARING THE DOCUMENTATION
- Make it as easy as possible for the on-site evaluation team to do their job. Organization is the key to success.
- Organize support documentation in a central location. Many schools use a three-ring binder to organize their self-evaluation and to display the small items used to document responses. Items too large for the binder can be placed in labeled folders with references to them. Of course, some documentation is seen by visiting the lab, classrooms, or other facilities.
Provide documentation for every response. Where helpful, provide a narrative comment to explain a little information about the documentation or where to locate verification of a statement.
If referencing information within a document such as a college catalog, reference the page numbers, tab the pages with sticky notes, and highlight the appropriate information.
Pay particular attention to the go/no-go items in the standards. Non-compliance on one of these items will keep the program from achieving accreditation no matter how good everything else is.
Except for the go/no-go items, the average score for the entire standard determines compliance with each standard. Therefore, you don’t have to meet every criteria of every standard. The strong items can offset the weaker items. If your self-evaluation score for a standard is lower than a four, look at all the criteria of that standard to see where you can make improvements.
DOCUMENTING TASKS AND HOURS
- Doing a good job of organizing materials to demonstrate that the minimum number of tasks is taught in the program is very important. There are many ways to do this.
- Cross reference information such as the NATEF task list and where the minimum required hours for each area are accounted for.
- Student tracking instruments are great for showing that a NATEF task is included in the curriculum. Individual student job sheets and lesson plans that are cross-referenced to the NATEF task list are also good methods to demonstrate that the tasks are taught.
FOR THE TEAM
- Communicate with the evaluation team leader (ETL) to see what you can do to help him/her to be prepared for the on-site visit. Consult the NATEF Accreditation Manual for what materials you must send to the ETL prior to the on-site visit.
- Make sure the ETL and team have a clear understanding (overview) of your program.
- Make sure the technicians you identified as team members are still available once the on-site date has been established.
- If conditions will allow, host a dinner the evening before the on-site visit for everyone who will be involved in the evaluation. A lot of the groundwork for the on-site visit can be set.
- Provide the team with a room where they can meet. It should be large enough for the team and representatives from the school to meet.
- A brief tour of the facility may be helpful.
- Provide the team with a schedule of classes and a map of the facility. Remember, the visit must occur while classes (lab) are in session. They cannot see normal practices in the lab environment if students are not active in the lab (e.g. use of safety glasses, exhaust vents, etc.).
- Be available, or have a staff person available, to the on-site team for as much time as possible for the on-site visit.
- If you anticipate that a section of documentation to support a certain standard may be difficult for the team to understand, offer to explain it to them or guide them through it.
- Provide lunch for the team during the on-site evaluation days.
- Be available for a debriefing meeting immediately following the evaluation (before the ETL and team members leave the building). The ETL will provide a summary of the on-site evaluation team's findings, and the final report will be forwarded to the NATEF office within one week for review.
NATEF Program Accreditation Self Evaluation Orientation Meeting
(Date, Time, and Place)
Meeting participants: Institutional representatives from administration, fiscal, guidance and media resource departments, and one or more individuals representing private sector automotive service and repair enterprises who may become members of a local automotive program advisory committee.
Note: The renewal of accreditation process requires that a minimum of four (4) advisory committee members participate in the self-evaluation process.
Length of meeting: Ninety minutes
Setting: A pleasant and comfortable meeting environment, i.e., faculty lounge, media resource center.
Handout materials: ASE pamphlets, copies of the most current status report on NATEF program accreditation by state, copies of the self-evaluation process from the Standards Documents and copies of a proposed time and task continuum for completing the self-evaluation.
Convening the meeting, welcome, introductions, statement of purpose, and expectations [10 minutes] – led by representatives of the local administration, preferably the superintendent, high school principal or curriculum director.
A Word from the Business Community [10 minutes] The Big Picture The need for a ready supply of competent automotive technicians in the automotive service industry and a brief history of NATEF accreditation, its congruence with the movement towards national skill standards, and its impact on program improvement led by local automotive service industry spokesperson.
The NATEF Accreditation Process [20 minutes] An overview of the NATEF accreditation process with more detailed attention directed toward the self evaluation component led by automotive instructional staff. (Circulate a display copy of the Standards Documents and distribute copies of the self-evaluation).
Completing the Self Evaluation-A Team effort [30 minutes] Delineation of the standards contained in the self evaluation process, presentation of a proposed timeline for addressing and completing each standard, and the enlistment of support and involvement of those in attendance to participate in the process led by automotive program instructional staff and administration (Distribute copies of the proposed timeline for review; discuss possible roles, assignments and modifications in the timeline).
Open Discussion, Summary, and Adjournment [20 minutes] panel consisting of representation from business, the administration, and the automotive program instructional staff.
SUGGESTIONS FOR DELEGATING WORK ASSIGNMENTS
Performing the self-evaluation is normally considered to be the most important component of the NATEF accreditation process. Developing an organized approach that modularizes the self-evaluation, delegate responsibilities to specific individuals, and establish a timeline for completion will contribute significantly to the success of the self-evaluation.
The following list suggests individuals who might be the most appropriate to efficiently evaluate each standard and gather the associated reference materials (support documentation). This list is intended to serve as an example and may not completely fit your school/program structure.
||Recommendations for delegation of work
|1 – Purpose
||Administrator/Guidance/ Office of Institutional Research
|2 – Administration
|3 - Learning Resources
|4 – Finances
|5 – Student Services
|6 – Instruction
|7 – Equipment
|8 – Facilities
|9 – Instructional Staff
|10 – Cooperative Agreements