Evaluation visits are the second of three steps in the accreditation process, coming after the self-study but before any final actions by the Board of Commissioners (see Part Three of the new Self-Study Handbook). Evaluators are peers who serve without remuneration, typically spending three to four days on campus, as well as devoting many hours before and after the visit to reviewing documents and writing an evaluation committee report. Evaluation committees consist of three to five persons, including an administrator, an academic/educator, and a ministry practitioner (though others may be added as needed, for example, for distance education). An ATS staff person usually accompanies the evaluation committee, acting as a resource for the school and the committee.
Serving on an evaluation committee is often described by participants as "one of the best forms of professional development," not only because of what is learned about how the Standards promote quality education in different contexts but also because of rich and rewarding interactions with peers. For more information about evaluation visits, see sections III.B.1-10 of the Policies and Procedures and Part Three of the new Self-Study Handbook. Other helpful documents and training materials are made available to evaluation committee members through Canvas, the online learning management system the ATS Commission uses for evaluation visitors. The ATS Commission staff provides other training sessions for members of evaluation committees, including various workshops and one-on-one mentoring before, during, and after visits.
*NOTE: The ATS Commission has also developed a new website called Understanding the Standards. It provides many helpful resources for those wanting to become familiar with the new Standards, as well as with the new Policies and Procedures, with tips also for those engaged in self-studies and in evaluation visits.
Public Notice of Evaluation Visits
As part of its responsibilities to the membership and to the public, the Commission on Accrediting publishes prior to each semester a list of schools receiving comprehensive evaluation visits during that semester. The Commission invites third-party comments regarding schools scheduled to receive such visits, which may be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org (see Policies and Procedures III.B.2). In addition to this listing, the school should announce the visit to its constituencies (e.g., via its website, newsletter, or social media) at least 45 days prior to its visit, using language such as the following:
“[Name of school] is hosting a comprehensive evaluation visit for reaffirmation of [or, for initial] accreditation by the ATS Commission on Accrediting on [list dates of visit]. The purpose of this visit is to verify that the school meets all applicable Commission Standards of Accreditation. Comments regarding how well the school meets those standards and/or generally demonstrates educational quality may be sent to the ATS Director of Commission Information Services at least two weeks before the visit. Comments may also or instead be sent in writing to [list official at school, along with contact information]. All comments will be shared with the onsite evaluation committee.”
The Board of Commissioners will be voting at its January 31, 2022, meeting on updating the Fall 2021 COVID-19 Accreditation Guidelines. The update will likely allow spring 2022 visits (listed below) to continue to be conducted onsite, online, or a combination thereof. Once approved, the update will be posted here. In the meantime, feel free to contact your Commission staff liaison.
• Ambrose Seminary
• Antiochian House of Studies (pending approval of the Board of Commissioners)
• Associated Canadian Theological Schools
• Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University
• Church Divinity School of the Pacific
• Denver Seminary
• Dominican House of Studies
• Ecumenical Theological Seminary
• Erskine Theological Seminary
• Evangelia University Graduate School of Theology (pending approval of the Board of Commissioners)
• Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University
• John Leland Center for Theological Studies
• Neal T. Jones Seminary of Washington University of Virginia
• New Brunswick Theological Seminary
• Reformed Theological Seminary
• Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
• St. Augustine’s Seminary of Toronto
• St. Mary’s Seminary and University
• Trinity Lutheran Seminary at Capital University
• Union Presbyterian Seminary
• University of St. Mary of the Lake Mundelein Seminary
• University of St. Michael’s College Faculty of Theology
• Villanova University Department of Theology and Religious Studies (pending approval of the Board of Commissioners)