The Site Visit Process
The Commission on Dental Accreditation evaluates the educational quality of dental and dental-related programs in the United States. All 50 states plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia recognize the Commission's authority to accredit dental and dental-related education programs in the dental and dental-related disciplines. Most recently in 2006, the U.S. Department of Education reaffirmed the Commission's scope "for the accreditation of predoctoral dental education programs (leading to the DDS or DMD degree), advanced dental education programs, and allied dental education programs that are fully operational or have attained "accreditation eligible" status, and for accreditation of its programs offered via distance education."
The Commission on Dental Accreditation has developed Accreditation Standards for each of the disciplines within its purview. The standards, which are the basis for accreditation actions, are reviewed periodically and revised as necessary. The Commission's accreditation standards have been stated, purposefully, in terms which allow flexibility, innovation and experimentation. Regardless of the method(s) used to provide instruction (traditional or distance education), the Commission expects that each accredited program will comply with the spirit as well as the letter of the accreditation standards.
The Commission expects that one of the goals of a dental or dental-related educational program is to prepare qualified individuals in their respective disciplines. Accredited programs must design and implement their own outcomes measures to determine the degree to which stated goals and objectives are being met. Results of this ongoing and systematically documented assessment process must be used to evaluate the program's effectiveness in meeting its goals, to improve program quality and enhance student achievement.
The purpose of the site visit evaluation is to obtain in-depth information concerning all administrative and educational aspects of the program. In addition, the site visit permits a team of Commission-appointed peers to assess a program's compliance with the Accreditation Standards and with its own stated goals and objectives. The site visit verifies and supplements the information contained in the comprehensive self-study document completed by the institution.
Every effort is made to review all existing dental and dental-related programs in an institution at the same time. However, adherence to this policy of institutional review may be influenced by a number of factors, e.g., graduation date established for new programs, recommendations in previous Commission reports, and/or current accreditation status.
All members of the site visit team carefully review the self-study document prior to the on-site review. This initial assessment serves to identify areas where the program may not comply with the Accreditation Standards or to raise questions about information that is unclear. While on site, the site visit team verifies the information provided in the self-study document and carefully assesses any unclear or problem areas. The verification process includes interviews with institutional personnel and review of program documentation. A recommendation is included in the report of the site visit when non-compliance with a standard is identified. If a particular standard is not addressed by the report, the program is viewed as meeting that standard.
The site visit report, along with the institutional response to the report, serves as the Commission's primary basis for accreditation decisions. The report also guides chief executive officers and administrators of educational institutions in determining the degree of their compliance with the Accreditation Standards. The Commission, assisted by the site visit teams, identifies specific program deficiencies or areas of non-compliance with the standards, but it is the responsibility of the program to identify specific solutions or means of improvement.
From the very initial preparations to preparing a response to the site visit report, site visit procedures vary for many reasons. Because of that, this information is provided to assist the program prepare the self-study and plan the actual visit. This site was developed as a tool to supplement personal assistance provided by the Commission. To reach Commission staff, please choose a link below.
Coordinated Site Visits
If an institution offers more than one dental education program, the Commission evaluates all programs during a single site visit whenever possible. Shared faculty, shared facilities and integrated curricula, as well as the time and expense involved in preparing for a visit, are among the reasons for coordinated evaluations.
The Commission encourages the coordination of its evaluations with evaluations by regional and/or other nationally recognized accrediting associations. It will make every effort to coordinate its evaluations with those of other associations if requested to do so by an institution.
The Commission has conducted simultaneous evaluations with regional accrediting associations such as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and other specialized agencies such as the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or with state accrediting agencies such as the State Education Department, the University of the State of New York Division of College and University Evaluation. If an institution wishes to coordinate accreditation activities, the Commission should be contacted well in advance of the projected time of the site visit.