The National Architectural Accrediting Board is responsible for assessing all professional architectural degree programs in the United States. In most states, an architect must graduate from an institute accredited by the NAAB in order to obtain a license to work. Prospective students of architecture know that accredited institutions meet specific standards for curriculum, faculty and services.
The NAAB conducts an accreditation review of each school of architecture at least once every six years. In some cases, the term of accreditation is shorter and must be renewed every two or three years. Both brick-and-motor institutions and online schools are eligible for accreditation. An assessment team scrutinizes the undergraduate, master's and doctoral programs and compiles a document. The library of each institution is required to make its NAAB report available to the public.
The first part of the accreditation process is the self-study. Each school uses the NAAB Conditions and Procedures for Accreditation to compose a report that reviews their programs. This Architecture Program Report includes the history and mission of the school in relation to both higher education in general and architecture education in particular. Institutions must assess their culture of learning and their diversity policies. Using the APR, schools examine their architecture programs in such areas as treatment of students, professional preparation and public service. In addition, the APR includes long-term plans for the program.
After the APR is completed, volunteers representing the NAAB, including educators, students and practicing architects, evaluate the document. The team then visits the school personally and assesses a large number of factors, including faculty credentials, physical resources, student assessment, curriculum framework and curriculum review and development. Following the visit, the members create the Visiting Team Report. This includes the overall findings, changes since the prior accreditation visit and any concerns. The VTR culminates with a confidential recommendation about accreditation.
The visiting team presents its report and recommendation to the NAAB board. After reviewing the document, the board can take several steps. It can grant or deny accreditation for any new programs a school wants to offer. Existing programs may receive a green light to continue, even if there are recommendations for changes. The most severe action the board can take is to rescind accreditation for a program.
Living in upstate New York, Susan Sherwood is a researcher who has been writing within educational settings for more than 10 years. She has co-authored papers for Horizons Research, Inc. and the Capital Region Science Education Partnership. Sherwood has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from the University at Albany.