Does CACREP Accreditation Make A Difference? A Look at NCE Results and Answers

Article excerpt

With the establishment of CACREP in 1981 and the creation of the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) in 1982, counselor education gained accreditation standards and a method of measuring educational knowledge. Bobby and Kandor (1992) suggested that CACREP has helped implement quality changes and raise accountability; however, Schmidt (1999) found no studies that indicated CACREF graduates are more proficient. This study used an ANOVA to examine the National Counselor Examination's (NCE®) ability, over a five-year period, to differentiate between CACREP and non-CACREP scores. Two random samples resulted in statistically significance (p=.000) indicating that CACREP test takers do score higher than non-accredited test takers.

Does CACREP Accreditation Make A Difference? A Look at NCE Results and Answers

Accountability, performance, and outcome measurements are all good words, and most, if not all academicians would argue they are needed; however, they are often illusive to define and difficult to apply. Counseling professionals must struggle with vague, abstract concepts and discover appropriate methods to move beyond qualitative descriptors to identify, define, and implement meaningful quantitative measurements of the minimal basic knowledge and experience required of graduate students as they move from the academic classroom into the twenty-first century world of work.

There is a strong move, by both the public and government, toward performance-based evaluation of outcome for occupations seeking professional status in order to protect the integrity of training and accreditation ("Accreditation Process Improvement," 1999; Gondles, 1996; Rebel, 1999; Lehman & Myers, 1995; McCollum, 1998; Selingo, 1999). The impact of technology on the educational process (e.g., distance education, online courses, virtual universities) has raised serious new questions about how to ensure quality learning that is flexible while protecting the public from inferior programs in bricks and mortar institutions or bogus diploma mills (Anonymous, 1999; Blumenstyk, 1998; Howard, 1998; McCollum, 1998; Selingo, 1999).

The concept of professional standards has been salient throughout the twentieth century in a variety of settings (Adams, 2000; Andrews, 1973; Harcleroad, 1980). Although the roots of professional counseling can be traced back to Frank Parsons in 1908, it is only within the last 25 years that the counseling profession has established an entity known as the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), which was established in 1981 and charged with the creation of educational standards. In order for this organization to be a viable part of the developing counseling profession, some method of measuring those standards became critical. The creation of the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) in 1982 provided a unified definition of counseling, a voluntary measure of minimal competence, and provided a standardized measure of comparison across state boundaries. NBCC, by design, assesses counselors with CACREP standards remaining the core of that assessment.

Four terms or descriptors are intertwined in any discussion of professional quality measurement. They are registry, licensure, accreditation, and certification. Registry is the identification of individuals who have completed both training and experience requirements for membership in their professional group while licensure is a state's effort to regulate the practice of an occupation by limiting usage of a specific title and defining the practice of that occupation (Bradley, 1991). In addition, Bradley described accreditation as "a process of approving formal training programs" (p. x), with designated peer groups within the professional organizational structure usually conducting the accreditation process. Sweeney (1991) defined certification as an institutional guarantee or standard and Clawson (1996) suggested it denotes professional status. …