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Teachers College Selected Topics Self-Study


Middle States Commission on Higher Education

An institution of higher education is a community dedicated to the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge, to the study and clarification of values, and to the advancement of the society it serves. To support these goals, institutions of higher education within the Middle States region joined together in 1919 to form the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, a professional association devoted to educational improvement through accreditation. Today’s successor organization for higher education accreditation is the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Characteristics of Excellence, p. iv.

MSCHE Mission and Vision

Peer Review and Accreditation Cycle

Accreditation is the means of self-regulation and peer review adopted by the educational community. The accrediting process is intended to strengthen and sustain the quality and integrity of higher education, making it worthy of public confidence and minimizing the scope of external control. The extent to which each educational institution accepts and fulfills the responsibilities inherent in the process is a measure of its concern for freedom and quality in higher education and its commitment to striving for and achieving excellence in its endeavors. Characteristics of Excellence, p. iv.

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education reviews institutions periodically through either on-site evaluation or other reports. The Commission maintains a 10-year cycle of review alternating between self-study and on-site evaluation and a Periodic Review Report. Institutions granted initial accreditation following self-study and on-site evaluation conduct a second self-study for on-site evaluation in the fifth year following the grant of accreditation. From that point forward, institutions reflect on progress and changes in a Periodic Review Report five years later. In addition to these set reviews, institutions also may be reviewed in conjunction with follow-up reporting or substantive institutional change, or at the initiation of the Commission, based on developments within the institution.

Characteristics of Excellence

The essential point of reference for self-study and peer review is Characteristics of Excellence in Higher Education, which sets forth the Commission’s requirements of affiliation and standards for accreditation. The Commission’s accreditation standards were developed by consensus among member institutions in the Middle States region.

In their self-review processes, institutions demonstrate how they meet the accreditation standards within the context of their own institutional mission and goals. No assurance is given or implied that every accredited institution manifests these characteristics and meets these standards in equal proportion. Accredited institutions are expected to demonstrate these standards in substantial measure, to conduct their activities in a manner consistent with the standards, and to engage in ongoing processes of self-review and improvement.

The standards include:

  • Institutional Context
    • Standard 1: Mission and Goals
    • Standard 2: Planning, Resource Allocation, and Institutional Renewal
    • Standard 3: Institutional Resources
    • Standard 4: Leadership and Governance
    • Standard 5: Administration
    • Standard 6: Integrity
    • Standard 7: Institutional Assessment
  • Educational Effectiveness
    • Standard 8: Student Admissions and Retention
    • Standard 9: Student Support Services
    • Standard 10: Faculty
    • Standard 11: Educational Offerings
    • Standard 12: General Education
    • Standard 13: Related Educational Activities
    • Standard 14: Assessment of Student Learning

Decennial Self-Study Process and Result

The decennial evaluation involves a significant institutional self-study and a visit by a team of external peer evaluators. This full evaluation occurs immediately before a candidate institution is granted initial accreditation, five years after that initial accreditation, and every 10 years thereafter.

The decennial evaluation consists of an extensive institutional self-study process that produces a written self-study report. The Commission’s accreditation standards serve as the basis for on-site evaluation by a team of peer evaluators. During self-study, the institution carefully considers its educational programs and services, with particular attention to student learning and achievement, and it determines how well these programs and services accomplish the institution’s goals, fulfill its mission, and meet the Commission’s standards.

A Continuum of Models

There are three major models for self-study: comprehensive, selected topics, and collaborative. Within these broad models, there are many possible approaches to self-study and evaluation. This flexibility recognizes the differences in mission, purpose, internal conditions, needs, and external influences at each educational institution.

A selected topics self-study allows an already-accredited institution to devote concentrated attention to topics it selects and to concentrate solely on those topics in its self-study. It demonstrates compliance with accreditation standards not related to the selected topics by providing other documents for the Commission to review. Unlike the comprehensive self-study, the selected topics approach requires that there be existing documentation, such as evaluative reports and other information and data, to demonstrate substantive compliance with those accreditation standards not addressed through the topics selected by the institution.