AOTA's Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE®) is completing the process of review and revision of the current accreditation Standards: the ACOTE Standards for an Accredited Educational Program for the Occupational Therapist orOccupational Therapy Assistant. These Standards establish the critical requirements necessary to prepare individuals to become entry-level occupational therapists or occupational therapy assistants. The Standards are reviewed every 5 years to ensure that they remain current and effective.
The comprehensive review process used by ACOTE is designed to ensure participation by the broadest possible constituency. The process began in fall 2003 with the establishment of the ACOTE Educational Standards Review Committee (ESRC) consisting of the following members:
- Jane Olson, PhD, OTR; ESRC Chairperson (ACOTE-OT education)
- Carol Doehler, MS, OTR/L; ESRC Vice Chairperson (ACOTE-OTA education)
- Michele Clopper, MS, OTR/L (Roster of Accreditation Evaluators [RAE]-OT practice)
- Cindy Kief, COTA/L, AP (RAE-OTA practice)
- Eileen Garza, PhD, OTR, ATP (Commission on Practice [COP]-OT practice)
- Mary M. Malone, MS, OTR/L (Commission on Education [COE]-OTA education)
- K. Della Ferguson, PhD (academic administrator)
- Dyhalma Irizarry, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA (National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy [NBCOT]-Observer)
- Sue Graves, Senior Program Manager in Accreditation (AOTA staff liaison)
In spring 2004, the ESRC began by soliciting feedback on the current Standards from constituency groups. Constituent groups include all the bodies within the AOTA organizational structure; AOTF; NBCOT; OT and OTA educational program representatives (CEOs, deans, program directors, and fieldwork coordinators); occupational therapy fieldwork educators and practitioners; consumers; employers; regulators (licensure boards, state higher education commissions, and accreditors); students; and the public at large. In addition to the feedback, the ESRC reviewed higher education accreditation policies with which ACOTE must comply.
During the review process, the following issues emerged: clarification of credentials for faculty and program directors; further differentiation of Standards for occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants; specificity of content in prerequisites, evaluation and intervention; clarification of the academic fieldwork coordinator's role; strengthening of fieldwork; integration of the occupational therapy framework; and disclosure of program outcomes.
Draft standards were approved by ACOTE in December 2004. In spring 2005, Call for Comment surveys on the draft Standards were distributed to the constituent groups. In fall 2005, constituent groups were invited to comment on targeted areas of the draft Standards, including program director credentials, faculty credentials, fieldwork coordinator credentials, program outcomes, and content specificity (prerequisites, case management, assistive technology, prosthetic devices, driver rehabilitation, swallowing, physical agent modalities, and genetics).
In February 2006, all constituent groups were invited to comment on the Final Draft Standards for OT programs at the master's degree level and OTA programs at the associate degree and certificate level. Additional comment was invited at a Standards Open Hearing on Thursday, April 27, 2006, at AOTA's Annual Conference & Expo in Charlotte, North Carolina.
At its meeting in March 2006, the ESRC reviewed all survey results from the February 2006 Call for Comment on Final Draft Standards for the OTA and OT master's degree levels. The committee also reviewed approximately 30 letters or e-mails related to the Standards.
The vast majority of Standards (186 out of 188, 99%) were rated "acceptable" or "somewhat acceptable" by the majority (80% or greater) of respondents. The ESRC reviewed comments that were submitted with these "acceptable" Standards in order to identify additional needs for clarification or interpretation. The committee concluded that the response provided sufficient input to finalize the Standards based on the input received.
When 20% or more of respondents indicated that a Standard was "not acceptable," these Standards were reviewed in-depth. Two Standards were rated as "not acceptable" by more than 20% of respondents. The ESRC reviewed comments submitted for these Standards in order to recommend revisions to ACOTE.
ACOTE will meet on August 3-6, 2006, to finalize the Standards for the Occupational Therapy Assistant and Occupational Therapist master's degree education programs.
When the Standards are approved, a process for transition to the new Standards will be disseminated. If the Standards are approved in August 2006, programs will be required to comply with the new Standards by January 2008.