A school is accredited if the quality of the education it provides has been verified by an accrediting agency according to the standards set by that agency. Accreditation ensures that the school follows best practices in educating and preparing students for employment in their chosen field; it means that the school can demonstrate successful student achievement.
Does that mean that any school that says “Accredited” on their website provides an appropriate education? Not necessarily. Just as there are schools with low standards, there are agencies with low standards set up to provide “accreditation” for them.
The New York School for Medical and Dental Assistants (NYSMDA) is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC). The ACCSC is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) as a reliable authority on the educational quality of the schools it accredits. NYSMDA’s accreditation by an agency recognized by the DOE is what allows our students to be eligible for federal student aid funds.
NYSMDA has been accredited by the ACCSC since 1973. Our accreditation is renewed periodically, usually every five years. This is a rigorous process which allows the ACCSC to confirm that NYSMDA meets the required benchmarks. The central procedures are the self-evaluation and the onsite evaluation. The self-evaluation is a thorough report prepared by the school which describes and provides detailed documentation for how the school meets the required standards. Once ACCSC has reviewed the self-evaluation, they send a team to the school for the onsite evaluation.
The onsite evaluation is an intensive inspection which checks on everything the school reported on its self-evaluation. The team that inspects NYSMDA includes occupational specialists – experts in Dental Assisting and Medical Assisting – as well as education specialists. The evaluation team members review files; observe classes; check on equipment and facilities; interview staff and faculty; and survey students.
In between renewals, NYSMDA provides annual reports to ACCSC which document that we continue to meet the standards.
ACCSC’s standards are student-centered. That means that they assess schools according to whether the educational program at that school provide a firm foundation for student success, and whether the students’ success can be verified.
There are ACCSC standards that focus specifically on student outcomes – objective measures of student success. These include:
Student graduation rates
Rates of graduate employment
Licensure / certification pass rates
There are ACCSC standards that focus on infrastructure – to support the delivery of its programs, a school needs appropriate:
Facilities, equipment, and library
Faculty, staff and administration
Career services and other student services
The school must also have:
Program Advisory Committee meetings on a regular schedule. NYSMDA has a Dental Assistant Advisory Committee and a Medical Assistant Advisory Committee. The professionals on these committees help us ensure that our training meets the current standards in these occupations.
Institutional Assessment and Improvement meetings and plans. There is always room for improvement, and it must be ongoing and documented.
Financial stability. Our resources must be sufficient to fully support our programs.
Policies and procedures. These must be fair, effective, and consistent.
Currently - behind the scenes at NYSMDA - it’s accreditation renewal time! Over the next few months, NYSMDA staff and administration will be hard at work preparing the required reports and documentation for the self-evaluation, which will be submitted in the fall. That will be followed by the onsite evaluation, probably during the winter. By next summer we anticipate a positive action by ACCSC, renewing our accreditation for the full five-year period.
Why does accreditation matter for Medical Assisting and Dental Assisting students? Because it lets you know that NYSMDA is accountable for meeting our objectives:
NYSMDA has established the following objectives in order to fully implement its goal and to fulfill its commitment to serve not only the student, but the community at large. Our aim is to enrich the student’s education through high level training which is essential to meet the demands of modern medical offices, dental offices and clinics in order to achieve the following specific objectives:
1. To provide intensive training in the fields of: Dental Assistant and Medical Assistant
2. To educate and thoroughly train students for positions as successful employees in the healthcare field.
3. To provide instruction in relevant allied health skills that reflects current techniques.
4. To provide identical academic and support services to both day and evening students.
5. To insure adequate financial support for students with demonstrated need necessary to meet all educationally related expenses within the limits of the school’s resources.
6. To provide an environment that is conductive to students’ personal and academic development.
7. To assist in the placement of all graduates in satisfying, productive and growth-oriented jobs.