Frequently Asked Questions


NASM Protocols, Procedures, and the Application of Standards

Q: My institution is scheduled to conduct its comprehensive review during the fall of 2020. The dates of the visit and members of the visiting team have been confirmed. Can this visit be rescheduled/postponed?

A: Yes. On-site reviews may be rescheduled/postponed by institutions as necessary and desired. As examples, fall 2020 visits may be rescheduled to spring 2021 or postponed to the 2021-2022 academic year or later. Institutions finding it necessary to postpone comprehensive accreditation reviews from one academic year to the next (i.e., from 2020–2021 to 2021–2022) for good cause may wish to review NASM’s Policy on Postponements. As a reminder, formal requests for postponements require approval and therefore must be submitted to the National Office. Should questions arise regarding the Policy or its application, please contact Kathryn Omune in the National Office (komune@arts-accredit.org).

Q: My institution is scheduled to conduct its comprehensive review during the fall of 2020. Although the visitation dates have been confirmed, one of the evaluators is no longer able to serve on the team. Can a replacement be found at this time? If not, what options are available?

A: At least three options are available for consideration – (a) work with the National Office staff to seek a new team member, (b) request that the visit be moved from the fall of 2020 to the spring of 2021, or (c) request a postponement of the visit until the next academic year (in this case, 2021-2022). A word about each of these options – (a) at this time due to issues pertaining to health and safety, it may be difficult to secure a new team member for a fall 2020 visit, (b) since each institution is slated for a comprehensive review during a specific academic year, movement of the visitation dates within an academic year does not require a postponement, the institution may simply reschedule the visit from the fall 2020 to the spring of 2021 semester, and (c) institutions interested in postponing comprehensive visits should review the NASM Policy on Postponements. Kathryn Omune (komune@arts-accredit.org) in the National Office is available to discuss each option in detail.

Q: Will the rescheduling of a visit, a request for postponement, or extension of time to submit required information to a Commission result in a future adverse Commission action?

A: The rescheduling and postponement of visits, and extension of deadlines as they pertain to anticipated Commission replies, will have no effect on the outcome of future Commission reviews and actions provided the institution moves forward on the newly established and approved timeline expeditiously. It is important to note that procedural remedies that offer a provision of additional time are offered by NASM to accredited institutional members to assist them to conduct insightful reviews and prepare clear and well-considered replies.

Q: When is my institution’s next on-site comprehensive review?

A: Every accredited institutional member is required to proactively schedule, as initiated by the submission of its Notice of Intention to Apply form, its next comprehensive accreditation review and conduct its associated on-site evaluative visit in a timely fashion and in accord with NASM Procedures. The dates of an institution’s next comprehensive review (expressed as an academic year, i.e., 2021-22, 2022-23, etc.) may be found in the NASM Directory Lists. Institutions should schedule the on-site review at their convenience during either the fall or spring of the academic year listed. Materials (i.e., Self-Study, Management Documents Portfolio, etc.), should be sent to each visiting evaluator and the NASM National Office no later than four weeks prior to the actual date of the on-site review. Should questions arise regarding the schedule of comprehensive reviews, please contact Kathryn Omune (komune@arts-accredit.org) in the National Office.

Q: According to the NASM Directory List, my institution is slated for its comprehensive review during the 2020-2021 academic year. Can the comprehensive review be postponed until the next academic year?

A: Yes. Please see NASM’s Policy on Postponements. The Policy offers helpful and specific information to those wishing to consider postponements of comprehensive reviews whether scheduled or anticipated. Should questions arise, please contact Kathryn Omune (komune@arts-accredit.org) in the National Office.

Q: Is NASM conducting or planning to conduct virtual comprehensive visits?

A: Virtual visits associated with comprehensive reviews are not being conducted at this time and are not planned in the foreseeable future. In-person reviews of student work and competency development, institutional resources as they support music programs, and intellectual dialogue and interaction among colleagues, continue to be irreplaceable components of the NASM peer review process – a process that is designed to consider all aspects of an institution and the interrelationships between and among them. Should questions arise, please contact Kathryn Omune (komune@arts-accredit.org) in the National Office.

Q: Can a consultative visit be conducted virtually?

A: Institutions secure the services of consultants for a variety of reasons. Consultative work which includes a review of documentation (such as a Self-Study and supportive materials prepared for a comprehensive review) and discussion of the application of standards could be accomplished virtually. Institutions proceeding in such fashions are guided to ensure the security and confidentiality of the platform(s) used. However, if the intention of a consultative review is consideration of the development of student competencies and the adequacy of resources to support the music program, it is recommended that the review be conducted in-person. Should questions arise, please contact Kathryn Omune (komune@arts-accredit.org) in the National Office.

Q: Many changes are underway and/or anticipated at this time. Must each be reported to NASM?

A: It depends. In cases where the changes are substantial in nature as defined by NASM in the Rules of Practice and Procedure (see NASM Handbook 2019-20, Rules of Practice and Procedure, Part II., Article V.), applications for Substantive Change will be required. Changes of less substantive natures will be reviewed during an institution’s next comprehensive review. Institutional representatives unsure of whether a change is “substantial” should contact Ben Karnes (bkarnes@arts-accredit.org) in the National Office. As the institution considers options and implements changes, the following reminders are offered:

  • Representatives anticipating changes to existing policies and procedures are encouraged to review current institution-wide initiatives and approaches.
  • All policy changes whether temporary or permanent should be documented by the institution and disseminated and made available to appropriate constituencies.
  • Institutions may wish to seek review by legal counsel of any proposed change to ascertain the potential for risk and/or liability.

Q: Will the implementation of changes affect the institution’s accredited institutional membership status?

A: An institution making changes in direct response to unfolding circumstances may wonder whether NASM will take an immediate action which could jeopardize the institution’s current accreditation status. It is important to remember that all NASM Commission reviews operate within an existing, established, and published system of due process—a system which opens conversations; welcomes dialogue; offers the opportunity to discuss comprehensively an institution’s initiatives and, based on these initiatives, its ongoing ability to comply with standards; and comes to conclusion only after thorough consideration of all salient information has been completed (see NASM Handbook 2019-20, Bylaws, Article I., Sections 4.–6.). Careful attention to the processes outlined above and consideration of anticipated changes in light of current standards typically result in collegial conversations among peers interested in the advancement of music students and student achievement which assist institutions to not only demonstrate compliance with applicable standards, but to hone and advance their own initiatives. Should an institution desire feedback regarding the potential impact of an anticipated change on the institution’s continuing ability to comply with standards, please contact Ben Karnes (bkarnes@arts-accredit.org) in the National Office.

Q: My institution is considering the viability of all curricular offerings at this time, including those curricular programs which may be discontinued and units which may be consolidated. Is information available that might assist me to create a set of talking points which outline and support the value of music and music study at the collegiate level?

A: Yes. Many documents are available in NASM’s library which speak to this important issue. Please note the following: the Working Group on the Arts in Higher Education (WGAHE) Brochures; Creating Positive Futures Papers (Creating a Positive Future for Art Music, Creating a Positive Future for Music Advocacy, Creating a Positive Future for P-12 Music Education); Future of Art Music: Advocacy that Works; Getting It Done: Starting, Leading, and Facilitating Local Review and Action; Distance Education and the Arts Disciplines; Work of the Arts Executives in Higher Education; Foundation for the Advancement of Education in Music Brochures; Giftedness, Arts Study, and Work. In addition to a review of salient information found in these documents, please feel free to engage the staff in conversation to discuss approaches being considered and plans anticipated. Members of the NASM staff may be able to offer helpful ideas and perspectives.

Q: Will the 2020 NASM Annual Meeting be conducted on-site as planned in Scottsdale, Arizona?

A: NASM continues to review all options as it consider issues of viability and safety. As soon as a review of each option has been exhausted and a conclusion reached, definitive and specific information will be provided to NASM members and constituencies. Although copious amounts of information have been released since the onset of the outbreak, much remains unknown and uncertain at this time—such as the path the coronavirus will take, the ongoing effects of the virus, the resultant actions of federal and state governments, the level of activity of national commerce, institutional operations including the availability of funding to support travel, institutional permissions that pertain to Annual Meeting attendance, and the disposition of each individual as it pertains to personal safety. Such conditions result in the necessity for NASM to approach decision-making with utmost care, considered reflection, and only after a careful review of that which is known and that which can be anticipated with some level of certainty has been undertaken. At this time few aspects are static, which creates a level of complexity that requires the calibration and re-recalibration of outcomes—a process which requires focused planning and a gracious amount of time. Any decision will carry a fair share of consequences—those that may be immediately evident and those which remain out of plain sight. The desire to minimize unintended and undesirable consequences is paramount. As NASM works to seek a successful resolution, its concern for and attention to the health, well-being, and advancement of the field and to those who continue this important work remains in the forefront. NASM appreciates your patience as you await a decisive announcement regarding the 2020 Annual Meeting.

Q: If the 2020 on-site NASM Annual Meeting is cancelled, will NASM conduct the 2020 Annual Meeting in its entirety virtually?

A: Should the 2020 on-site Annual Meeting of NASM be cancelled, the meeting in its entirety will not be conducted through virtual means. Noting that the NASM Annual Meeting is an opportunity for individuals to come together in community for the purpose of connecting, communicating, and broadening understandings and awareness of salient issues, and now intimately aware of and familiar with the limitations placed on communications conducted through virtual means, it would be viably impossible for NASM to replicate through virtual means the vital, interactive, and organic interactions that are a hallmark of each Annual Meeting. Should a cancellation be announced, NASM would seek alternative means to conduct the business of the membership, Executive Committee, Board of Directors, Commission on Accreditation, and Commission on Community College Accreditation.

Q: What is the Affirmation Statement Questionnaire and when is it due?

A: On June 1, NASM informed accredited institutional members of their responsibility to submit an Affirmation Statement Questionnaire. This three-page questionnaire requests information intended to provide assurance that all curricular programs under the purview of NASM and meeting NASM listing requirements have been or will be submitted for review and approval, and that substantive changes— past, current, and/or projected—have been or will be submitted for review and approval. Affirmation Statement Questionnaires are an important part of the Association’s system for remaining current with the work of accredited institutional members and documenting continuing compliance with NASM standards. Please note that temporary short-term changes implemented in response to the effects of the coronavirus (i.e., the temporary movement of coursework from on ground to online) need not be reported on the Affirmation Statement Questionnaire. Changes made that are substantive in nature and intended to become permanent (i.e., the creation of new curricular programs which fall under the purview of NASM) should be noted on the Affirmation Statement Questionnaire. Should questions arise, please contact Ben Karnes in the National Office (bkarnes@arts-accredit.org).

Q: Are the provisions of the NASM Code of Ethics still in force?

A: NASM has been following since 2017 a possible restraint of trade concern held by the Department of Justice (DOJ) as it may pertain to the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) specifically with regard to changes made by NACAC to its Code of Ethics and Professional Practices in 2017. Although NACAC amended its Code provisions in September of 2019, the concern resulted in a complaint filed by DOJ against NACAC in December of 2019 (see Federal Register dated January 10, 2020). Comprehensive information regarding the DOJ proceedings, which have now come to a close, may be found here. The DOJ Final Judgment dated April 17, 2020 may be found here. Given the provisions of the DOJ Final Judgment, NASM will be offering in the form of Proposed Revisions to the NASM Handbook 2019-20, modifications to specific provisions of the current NASM Code of Ethics. Proposed Revisions will be forwarded to the membership for consideration later this summer following NASM review protocols articulated in the NASM Handbook 2019-20. A vote of the membership is expected to be taken in November of 2020. The text of the NASM Code of Ethics remains unchanged at this time. However, when applying the provisions of the NASM Code, it is suggested that institutions become mindful of and attentive to the provisions of the DOJ Final Judgment. Although certain specific activities are now prohibited as outlined in the DOJ Final Judgment, it is important to remember that (a) a hallmark of the work of NASM accredited institutional members is the continuing and unwavering regard held for ethical practices that are fair, applied equitably, and continue to serve and protect both institutions and students, and the field, and (b) such practices may be freely exercised absent the presence of articulated requirements. The Code of Ethics is based upon long-standing NASM principles, which remain today. Approaches and initiatives which (a) uphold the spirit of the NASM Code and the principles upon which it rests firmly, and (b) attend to the letter of the DOJ judgment should be considered as appropriate and can be implemented consistent with the provisions of each. Should questions arise, please contact Paul Florek (pflorek@arts-accredit.org) in the National Office.

Meetings

Q: Did NASM conduct the June 2020 summer meetings of the Commission on Accreditation?

A: On March 30, 2020, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam issued Executive Order 55, a statewide stay-at-home order that prohibited all public and private in-person gatherings of more than ten individuals through June 10, 2020, which followed and added to the previously issued Executive Order 53, a statewide order closing non-essential businesses through April 23, 2020. Therefore, noting national, regional, and local conditions resulting from the spread of COVID-19, and as confirmed in the email notice sent to NASM members on April 23, 2020, the NASM Commission on Accreditation meetings scheduled for May 28 – June 1, 2020 in Reston, Virginia were cancelled. The June Commission on Accreditation agenda has been combined with, and all items intended for review by the Commission during its spring meeting will be addressed during, the Commission on Accreditation meetings scheduled for November 2020. The submission deadline for consideration of institutional applications at the fall 2020 meeting, whether for review by the Commission on Accreditation or Commission on Community College Accreditation, is October 1, 2020. It is important to note that institutions are not required to amend materials that were submitted for June 2020 review. However, if new or more current information is available prior to October 1, it may be submitted to NASM and included in the institution’s dossier to be reviewed by the Commission on Accreditation in November of 2020. Instructions regarding the nature and format of Commission submissions may be found at the addresses as follows: Optional Responses, Responses and Progress Reports, Plan Approval and/or Final Approval for Listing applications. Commission Action Reports will be sent to institutions thirty days after the close of the November meetings. At this time, NASM requests that all submissions intended for review by a Commission in November 2020 be submitted in hard and electronic copy (i.e., USB flash drive). NASM deeply appreciates the understanding, patience, and flexibility of those anticipating a spring 2020 Commission review. Should this delay in the Commission on Accreditation’s review pose to any institution an insurmountable hardship, the music executive of the institution to be reviewed is asked to contact the office of the Executive Director directly. Should questions arise regarding November submission requirements, please contact Adèle-Marie Buis (abuis@arts-accredit.org) in the National Office.

Q: When are the next meetings of the Commission on Accreditation and the Commission on Community College Accreditation?

A: The fall meetings of the Commission on Accreditation and Commission on Community College Accreditation will take place November 15-20, 2020 and November 18-20, 2020 respectively.

New Information

Q: My institution was to have been reviewed by the NASM Commission on Accreditation in June of 2020 but given the cancellation of the June 2020 Commission meetings is now scheduled to be reviewed in November of 2020. The institution’s materials were submitted to the National Office by the prescribed deadline, May 1, 2020. New information has come to light since the institution’s submission. May this information/these materials be sent to NASM and included in the institution’s dossier for Commission review?

A: Yes. NASM will accept updates and amendments to previous submissions. Materials should be prepared and submitted to the National Office in hard and electronic copy (i.e., on a flash drive) and forwarded for receipt no later than November 1, 2020. Should questions arise regarding submissions and/or submission deadlines, please contact Adèle-Marie Buis (abuis@arts-accredit.org) in the National Office.

Submission Deadlines

Q: When are materials slated for a fall 2020 review by either the Commission on Accreditation or the Commission on Community College Accreditation due?

A: Materials in support of a comprehensive review (Self-Study, Management Documents Portfolio, Self-Study Appendices) must be submitted at least four weeks prior to an institution’s on-site visitation. Typically, consideration of such information is slated for Commission review the semester after the on-site visit. Responses and Progress Reports and applications for Plan Approval and/or Final Approval for Listing are due in the National Office no later than October 1, 2020. Optional Responses to NASM Visitors’ Report are due in the National Office no later than October 15, 2020. Materials should be submitted in hard and electronic copy (i.e., on a flash drive). Should questions arise regarding submissions and/or submission deadlines, please contact Adèle-Marie Buis (abuis@arts-accredit.org) in the National Office.

Q: My institution was scheduled for a spring 2020 on-site evaluative visit. However, due to the effects of the coronavirus, the visit dates were rescheduled to the fall of 2020. Must the Self-Study and accompanying materials be amended and resubmitted?

A: No. If a site visit related to a comprehensive review is rescheduled or postponed, updates to the Self-Study may be provided as part of an institution’s Optional Response submitted after receipt of the Visitors’ Report. The Self-Study and accompanying materials should not be rewritten and resubmitted. Questions regarding submissions may be directed to Adèle-Marie Buis (abuis@arts-accredit.org).

Q: If an institution postpones its on-site comprehensive review and the Self-Study and supporting documentation have been finalized, must they be amended?

A: No. If a site visit related to a comprehensive review is rescheduled or postponed, updates to the Self-Study may be provided as part of an institution’s Optional Response submitted after receipt of the Visitors’ Report. The Self-Study and accompanying materials should not be rewritten and resubmitted. Questions regarding submissions may be directed to Adèle-Marie Buis (abuis@arts-accredit.org).

Q: My institution is planning to submit a Response/Progress Report/Application for Plan Approval and/or Final Approval for Listing for consideration by the Commission during the November 2020 meetings. When are these materials due to NASM? In what form?

A: Responses and Progress Reports and applications for Plan Approval and/or Final Approval for Listing are due in the National Office no later than October 1, 2020. Optional Responses to NASM Visitors’ Report are due in the National Office no later than October 15, 2020. Materials should be submitted in hard and electronic copy (i.e., on a flash drive). Should questions arise regarding submissions and/or submission deadlines, please contact Adèle-Marie Buis (abuis@arts-accredit.org) in the National Office.

Q: My institution is required to respond to issues outlined in an NASM Commission Action Report in time for review by a Commission during the meetings in November of 2020. If additional time is needed to prepare the institution’s reply, may an extension to the June 2021 Commission meeting be requested?

A: Yes. An institution may request a six-month extension for good cause. A request should be sent to Adèle-Marie Buis (abuis@arts-accredit.org) in the National Office. Materials should be submitted in hard and electronic copy (i.e., on a flash drive) and will be due no later than May 1, 2021.

Submission Format

Q: In what format should materials be submitted for Commission review?

A: Institutions are asked to follow existing protocols, providing three copies of comprehensive visit materials, and two copies of Responses and Progress Reports and Plan Approval and/or Final Approval for Listing applications. These materials should be submitted to the National Office in hard and electronic copy (i.e., on a flash drive) by the prescribed submission deadline.

Q: My institution anticipated a review of an application for Plan Approval at the now cancelled June Commission meetings. When is the next opportunity for Commission review?

A: On March 30, 2020, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam issued Executive Order 55, a statewide stay-at-home order that prohibited all public and private in-person gatherings of more than ten individuals through June 10, 2020, which followed and added to the previously issued Executive Order 53, a statewide order closing non-essential businesses through April 23, 2020. Therefore, noting national, regional, and local conditions resulting from the spread of COVID-19, and as confirmed in the email notice sent to NASM members on April 23, 2020, the NASM Commission on Accreditation meetings scheduled for May 28 – June 1, 2020 in Reston, Virginia were cancelled. The June Commission on Accreditation agenda has been combined with, and all items intended for review by the Commission during its spring meeting will be addressed during, the Commission on Accreditation meetings scheduled for November 2020. The submission deadline for consideration of institutional applications at the fall 2020 meeting, whether for review by the Commission on Accreditation or Commission on Community College Accreditation, is October 1, 2020. It is important to note that institutions are not required to amend materials that were submitted for June 2020 review. However, if new or more current information is available prior to October 1, it may be submitted to NASM and included in the institution’s dossier to be reviewed by the Commission on Accreditation in November of 2020. Instructions regarding the nature and format of Commission submissions may be found at the addresses as follows: Optional Responses, Responses and Progress Reports, Plan Approval and/or Final Approval for Listing applications. Commission Action Reports will be sent to institutions thirty days after the close of the November meetings. At this time, NASM requests that all submissions intended for review by a Commission in November 2020 be submitted in hard and electronic copy (i.e., USB flash drive). NASM deeply appreciates the understanding, patience, and flexibility of those anticipating a spring 2020 Commission review. Should this delay in the Commission on Accreditation’s review pose to any institution an insurmountable hardship, the music executive of the institution to be reviewed is asked to contact the office of the Executive Director directly. Should questions arise regarding November submission requirements, please contact Adèle-Marie Buis (abuis@arts-accredit.org) in the National Office.

Q: If an accredited institutional member of NASM plans to develop, enroll students in, and/or advertise a new curricular program which falls under the purview of NASM and is to be offered on a continuous basis, is an application for Plan Approval required?

A: Yes. Institutions considering or that have initiated new curricular programs are guided to review procedures and requirements applicable to new curricular programs which may be found in the NASM Handbook 2019-20, Rules of Practice and Procedure, Part II., Article I., Section 3. and Article VI., and the NASM Policies and Procedures for Reviews of New Curricula. Temporary and short-term curricular programs implemented in response to the effects of the coronavirus (i.e., the temporary movement of coursework from on ground to online) need not be submitted for Plan Approval. Institutions are reminded that programs in which more than 40% of the required coursework is delivered through distance learning means will be designated as distance learning programs by NASM and in NASM publications, and therefore are required to be submitted for Plan Approval (even if an on ground version of the same curricular program is offered and has been approved by NASM) (see NASM Handbook 2019-20, Standards for Accreditation III.H.). Should questions arise regarding the necessity to submit applications for Plan Approval, please contact Adèle-Marie Buis (abuis@arts-accredit.org) prior to submission. Staff will work with each institution individually to ascertain and confirm the necessity for submission.

Q: What must an institution do if it plans to discontinue an existing curricular program now approved and listed by NASM, and enrolling students?

A: Institutions are asked to notify NASM of intentions to discontinue offering currently approved and listed curricular programs. At the same time, such curricular listings should be removed from institutional published materials. Should institutions decide to reactivate such programs in the future, applications for Plan Approval will be required. Institutions discontinuing programs are also asked to develop and implement teach-out agreements (as/if necessary) and teach-out plans outlining how students currently enrolled in such programs will be ensured the opportunity to complete their course of study.

Q: If an accredited institutional member plans to make substantive changes to a currently approved and listed curricular program, is an application for Substantive Change required?

A: It depends. In cases where the changes are substantial in nature as defined by NASM in the Rules of Practice and Procedures (see NASM Handbook 2019-20, Rules of Practice and Procedure, Part II., Article V.), applications for Substantive Change will be required. Changes of less substantive natures will be reviewed during an institution’s next comprehensive review. Institutional representatives unsure of whether a change is “substantial” should contact Ben Karnes (bkarnes@arts-accredit.org) in the National Office.

Q:  My institution has just received an invoice from NASM. We note that the invoice suggests that the balance is due within thirty (30) days. Given the financial hardships faced by my institution at this time, would NASM consider a modified payment option?

A: Yes. NASM is aware of the financial challenges faced by institutions at this time. Should you wish to discuss payment options, please contact Tracy Maraney (tmaraney@arts-accredit.org) in the National Office.

Q: I was scheduled to travel to an institution to conduct an on-site review. This review has now been rescheduled/postponed. May I submit expenses incurred to date to NASM for reimbursement now rather than waiting until after the rescheduled on-site review?

A: Yes. Evaluators (and consultants) who have incurred expenses as a result of rescheduled/postponed on-site reviews are asked to submit their expense forms with receipts to NASM for reimbursement at the earliest possible time. Please notify NASM if there has been any change in your mailing address at this time. Individuals planning to visit the institution at a later date are asked, if possible, to work directly with the travel carrier to secure the value of the ticket and to apply this value when rebooking. Individuals who are unable to participate in a future visit are asked, if possible, to work directly with the travel carrier to seek a refund for the full or partial cost of the ticket and if successful to reduce the total amount of expenses by the refunded amount. Please note that information regarding expenses, including expense forms and associated receipts may be submitted electronically for expedited service. Should questions arise regarding expenses or the reimbursement process, please contact Tracy Maraney (tmaraney@arts-accredit.org) in the National Office.

Q: I have accepted an invitation to serve as a visiting evaluator (consultant) for a visit that is scheduled to take place in the fall. What are my options if (a) I don’t feel comfortable traveling given current national circumstances, and/or (b) my institution has banned all employee travel?

A: NASM appreciates the time and effort offered by the volunteers that participate in the accreditation process. It respects the positions of its volunteers and the institutions they represent. Evaluators (and consultants) scheduled for visits that are rescheduled or postponed are asked to make their own determinations about their ability to serve during the newly requested time period based upon existing and current personal and institutional conditions. If for any reason an individual is unable to participate in an upcoming visit, please contact Kathryn Omune (komune@art-accredit.org) in the National Office.

Latitude and Flexibility

NASM standards and procedures offer the wide latitude necessary for work in a creative field. The standards are frameworks that address functions and their fulfillment, leaving methods and means to institutional discretion. Such latitude supports institutional development and use of new or different means during difficult times, or at any time. Given these flexibilities, the standards frameworks and procedures now in place remain effective in the guidance and support they provide to institutions. Such a position of consistency and constancy is comforting when it appears clear that applications, approaches, and methodologies established by institutions and accepted as common practice based on years of their proven efficiency and effectiveness at times may no longer be practical, or in some cases, possible. To deal with such realities, institutions adopt or may have to adopt temporary practices, procedures, and policies in response to current situations. Disruptions require institutions to find new ways to address functions once served by long-standing virtually ubiquitous practices. Practices that pertain to issues such as the delivery of course content, rehearsal and performance participation, grading policies, admission procedures, and the like, are being reconsidered, recalibrated, and reintroduced in creatively modified ways. Although NASM standards are set in a framework which offers flexibility and provides latitude, a framework which encourages experimentation, innovation, and the development of new approaches to curricula which enables institutions to address the functions expressed in the standards and their fulfillment in various ways, many institutions are left to wonder whether their planned initiatives (i.e., new curricular programs, substantive changes) and/or newly and swiftly implemented policies will enable them to continue to adhere to applicable NASM standards. Should such reasonable questions arise, administrators are asked to contact the National Office staff swiftly and without hesitation. The National Office staff exists to serve NASM members and constituencies. Though the Commission on Accreditation and Commission on Community College Accreditation hold singular authority and responsibility to ascertain compliance, the National Office staff can provide information, assistance, and advice as you unpack and consider issues of concern and work through scenarios that not only enable the institution to address current realities but attend to NASM requirements. It remains important for NASM member institutions to meet the letter and spirit of the standards as appropriate – standards expressed in functions which indicate to students, the public, and state/federal agencies the basic content and level of rigor expected in music education and training, and the skills, knowledge, and competencies that students enrolled in these programs of study are expected to acquire and master.

Looking for Solutions

Ideas and feedback provided by peers can be invaluable. However, a practice that may work well for some, accepted as a panacea for all, may be less effective in addressing individual challenges faced by other institutions. It is important to remember that each institution and situation is unique, and therefore that each situation requires careful thought, consideration, and decision-making which specifically addresses the issues before the institution. One of the strengths of our higher education system is the freedom available to each institution to create, design, and implement initiatives and curricular programs which align with locally stated missions and intents, and the ability these freedoms provide to institutions to solve problems on their own terms given local conditions and the availability of resources. Administrators should seek information pertinent to current situations from appropriate and confirmed authorities, but use this information specifically and perhaps, uniquely. Information and analysis that specifically targets an institution’s particular challenges can inform decision-making processes in invaluable ways. Implementation of a one-size-fits-all, “off-the-shelf” solution may exacerbate, rather than ameliorate, existing undesirable conditions. The strategic approach described herein will require the dedication of an amount of time necessary to collect information and consider various options. However, such an approach may provide to the institution the most comprehensive set of means available to assist it to find the most effective way forward.

Changes to the Academic Calendar

Q: My institution is contemplating a change to the institutional calendar (i.e., the fall 2020 semester may begin early and proceed without pause until Thanksgiving at which time students would be released, not to return until after the Christmas holiday). Will such a decision affect the accreditation status of my institution? What considerations must be made by the institution as it plans for this change and works to ensure ongoing compliance with applicable NASM standards?

A: To address this question comprehensively, a careful and close look must be taken at the applicable standards. Please note the following Handbook citations (NASM Handbook 2019-20):

  • Standards for Accreditation III.A.1.e.: “The total time requirement for any postsecondary program must be commensurate with the number of credit or clock hours required to complete the program. Reasonable total time requirements must be formulated and published.”
  • Standards for Accreditation III.A.2.a.: “a. Credit shall be awarded consistently according to the published credit policies of the institution and in compliance with NASM standards. Institutional policies shall establish the credit hour in terms of time and achievement required. The minimum time requirement shall be consistent with or reasonably approximate the following: (1) a semester hour of credit represents at least 3 hours of work each week, on average, for a period of fifteen to sixteen weeks; (2) a quarter hour of credit represents at least 3 hours of work each week for a period of ten or eleven weeks. Credit for other kinds of academic requirements or offerings that are in different formats, use different modes of delivery, or that are structured to take a different amount of time is computed on the same basis in terms of representing at least the equivalent amount of work. Policies concerning achievement shall be consistent with the principle that credit is earned only when curricular, competency, and all other requirements are met and the final examination or equivalent is satisfactorily passed.”
  • Standards for Accreditation III.A.2.b.-d.: “(b.) In lecture-discussion courses, normally 1 hour of credit is given for one period of recitation (50 minutes) plus 2 hours of preparation each week of the term. In laboratory courses, normally 1 hour of credit is given for two to three 50-minute recitation periods per week. Institutions vary significantly in ways credit is granted for ensembles. Some regard ensembles as laboratory courses, either implicitly or explicitly; others grant credit based on factors such as, but not limited to the nature and size of the ensemble; whether the ensemble is coached or conducted; the amount of student preparation required; and relationships to other credit requirements in the total curricular program.(c.) It is recommended that 1 credit hour be given for each 3 hours per week of practice, plus the necessary individual instruction, with a maximum of six credits per term allowed for the major subject in music performance. (d.) When institutions offer programs and courses for abbreviated time periods, or in independent study, they must ensure that students completing such programs or courses acquire levels of knowledge, competence, and understanding comparable to that expected of students completing work in the standard time period. For example, in order to earn 1 hour of credit during a summer session, students must attend approximately the same number of class hours and make the same amount of preparation as they would in attending a 1-hour-per-week course for one term during the regular academic year.”

These standards offered above suggest that institutions must provide to students the time and instruction necessary for them to develop knowledge and skills. The guidelines/norms offered suggest approaches; approaches are not dictated. As an example, note that the component parts of instruction include time in class (with and without an instructor) and student work, and that the location of the class is not defined. Is it possible that although time is reduced that student achievement expectations are not altered and can be obtained? Is it possible that time could be defined in ways other than that indicated by typical traditions? Is it possible that, given the flexibilities the standards allow, the institution could restate how and where students are required to “use” time? It is important to note that the issue is not one of arithmetic or formula, but rather, of conditions that ensure the development of student competencies. The standards offer to institutions several possible approaches which would result in meeting not only the spirit, but the letter of the standards. Should an institution wish to implement modifications, it is strongly recommended that the institution memorialize in writing any restatement of expectations as they pertain to time, and that the written materials confirm to students the alignment of expected outcomes as being the same (if this is the case) as that shared with the students upon entry (i.e., catalog description). Please note: Related to the Handbook citations offered above, it is important to distinguish between that which is a standard (i.e., indicated by the terms such as must, shall) and that which is not (i.e., indicated by terms such as should, normally, percentage). As the institution considers options and implements changes, the following reminders are offered:

  • Representatives anticipating changes to existing policies and procedures are encouraged to review current institution-wide initiatives and approaches.
  • All policy changes whether temporary or permanent should be documented by the institution and disseminated and made available to appropriate constituencies.
  • Institutions may wish to seek review by legal counsel of any proposed change to ascertain the potential for risk and/or liability.
  • Institutions are reminded to remain cognizant of federal and state requirements and statements as they pertain to grading policies and activities. Please note: The federal government has published three successive memos since March 2020 directed to institutions participating in federal aid programs for the purpose of (a) reminding institutions of current requirements, and (b) extending flexibilities/exemptions now available to institutions. Unlike the approach taken by NASM which embeds flexibility within its application of standards, the federal government is amending current rules and regulations at this time to address the challenges faced by institutions due to the unfolding and anticipated effects of the coronavirus which means that decisions can change and that each has a designated period of applicability. Institutions considering changes to the academic calendar should continue to keep abreast of information released by the federal government and any deadlines associated with these flexibilities and/or exemptions offered. Two of the three memos include guidance as it pertains to the length of the academic year and are referenced below.
  • Length of Academic Year
    The Department is authorized under 34 CFR § 668.3 to approve a reduced academic year. If at any point an institution determines it will close as the result of a campus health emergency, it may contact the School Participation team to request a temporary reduction in the length of its academic year (htts://ifap.ed.gov/electronic-announcements/030520Guidance4interruptionsrelated2CoronavirusCOVID19).
  • Academic Year (§ 668.3)
    The Department is authorized to approve a reduced academic year if an institution offering credit-hour programs is unable to offer at least 30 weeks of instruction during its academic year. If an institution determines it will temporarily cease providing instruction, extend a break, or otherwise reduce the length of its term in a manner that results in fewer than 30 weeks of instruction in the academic year as the result of COVID-19 disruptions, it should send an email to CaseTeams@ed.gov to request a temporary reduction in the length of its academic year. The request must:
  • Identify each educational program or programs for which the institution requests a reduction and the requested number of weeks of instructional time for those programs (institutions are permitted to request the waiver for all programs); and
  • Demonstrate good cause for the requested reductions (which would include disruptions related to COVID-19).
  • Institutions should include in the subject line of the email the institution’s name, OPEID, and the state where the main campus is located. The request will be reviewed and forwarded to the appropriate School Participation Division, which will communicate its final determination to the institution.

Grading

Q: Can my institution change from a letter to a pass/fail grading system? Will such a decision affect the accreditation status of my institution? What considerations must be made by the institution as it plans for this change and works to ensure ongoing compliance with applicable NASM standards?

A: Many institutions have considered or implemented policies which provide to students the option of being evaluated on a pass/fail rather than letter grade basis. Such opportunities can provide flexibilities to students that serve to assist them as they navigate difficulties, both foreseen and unforeseen, which result from participation in courses now offered and delivered only via distance learning means. NASM does not prescribe a particular structure or approach, rather it seeks to ensure that institutions have in place effective systems of evaluation. To this end, it is the responsibility of each of institution to design and implement grading policies that are “clear, accurate, and readily available” (see NASM Handbook 2019-20, Standards for Accreditation II.I.1.a.). and to “maintain up-to-date records of each student’s educational progress including courses taken, grades, repertory studied, performances associated with degree or program requirements, and the results of other appropriate evaluations” (see NASM Handbook 2019-20, Standards for Accreditation II.H.1.h.). Noting that grading systems serve to indicate levels of student achievement and the success of institutions in their efforts to educate and train students, each institution must “demonstrate that the educational and artistic development of students is first among all evaluative considerations” and in doing so that “regular, systematic attention…be given to evaluating the learning achievements of individual students” and that “individual evaluations…be analyzed and organized to produce an overall picture of the extent to which the educational and artistic purposes of the music unit are being attained” (see NASM Handbook 2019-20, Standards for Accreditation II.L.1.b.(1-2)). Further, “reviews and evaluations must demonstrate consideration of the functions of study at all levels (graduate, undergraduate, and certificate or diploma programs) and the purposes, structure, content, and results of each specific program of study” (see NASM Handbook 2019-20, Standards for Accreditation II.L.1.a.(4)). In the Handbook passages above, it is important to distinguish between that which is a standard (i.e., indicated by the terms such as must, shall) and that which is not (i.e., indicated by terms such as should, normally, percentage). As the institution considers options and implements changes, the following reminders are offered:

  • Representatives anticipating changes to existing policies and procedures are encouraged to review current institution-wide initiatives and approaches.
  • All policy changes whether temporary or permanent should be documented by the institution and disseminated and made available to appropriate constituencies.
  • Institutions may wish to seek review by legal counsel of any proposed change to ascertain the potential for risk and/or liability.
  • Temporary changes in grading policies may or may not be substantive and therefore may or may not require Commission review. Representatives are guided to contact the NASM staff to discuss the nature and function of any modification.
  • Institutions are reminded to remain cognizant of federal and state requirements and statements as they pertain to grading policies and activities.

On Ground Operations

 Q: With regard to on ground classes, private lessons, small and large ensembles, rehearsals, performances, and the like, when can we resume daily/typical (before COVID-19) levels of activity? What effect will modifications to such practices have on the accreditation status of my institution? What issues are important to consider as we study the viability and safety of conducting in-person activities and events?

A: For many, NASM is a source of information, stability, assistance, and wisdom – resulting historically from its intellectually-focused, institution-centered, and fair-minded approach to its accreditation responsibilities, and also from NASM’s deep respect for all types and mixtures of artistic and intellectual work and for the artistic and  intellectual work accomplished by member institutions. In its role to provide a forum for the exchange of ideas and dialogue, NASM does not attempt to formulate doctrine, a curriculum, or a set of curricula to which all must adhere. NASM seeks to preserve and enhance conditions that support different and institution-specific pathways, approaches, and agendas within the field of music. The breath of variety within NASM is evidence of institutional creativity. A focus on function rather than method remains a condition of creative freedom in an organization of NASM’s scope. With these principles firmly in place, NASM conversations concentrate on institutions individually in light of existing realities in play; they assist institutions to open and/or expand dialogues which advance their efforts to consider, design, and implement tailor-made solutions that will lead them to actions that enable each on its own terms to address local conditions and realities. The practice of engaging in conversations which focus solely on a particular institution – its mission, its, goals, its desired outcomes – is a hallmark of the work of NASM, and often provides abiding assistance and support to institutions, and nurtures approaches to thinking that can be captured and applied in the future to a multitude of situations.  Employing this approach, conversations in which all parties are engaged often serve as catalysts which spur and support institutions to find their own answers, on their own terms, informed by their stated missions, answers also aligned with national standards. Although these conversations often focus on anticipated results, beyond the framework of functions outlined in the standards, NASM avoids, and rightfully so, any suggestion of what an institution must do or how an institutional initiative must be accomplished. Such decisions can be made only by administrators and faculties possessing extensive knowledge of local realities, potential options and opportunities, and available resources, resources which may be needed and/or are available to support initiatives designed to address institution-specific challenges. During these particularly difficult times, it is important to recall that journeys marked by discoveries which result in the consideration of factual and applicable information can promote deeper understanding of conditions which may in turn, assist administrators to reach conclusions that take into account not only the health and safety of all individuals involved in the work of the music unit, but the work of the unit itself. As institutions offering music study consider the advisability of conducting on ground classes, private lessons, small and large ensembles, rehearsals, performances, and the like, it remains imperative that definitive information be secured, studied, and used to support decision-making efforts, and that any advice received or good practices shared by others be entertained in light of what the institution is able to accomplish reasonably and within its means given existing resources.

Resumption of activities should be considered only after comprehensive consideration of salient facts has been undertaken, and only at such times when each institution deems that its activities may be conducted safely. Issues such as testing; quarantine guidelines; protocols when individuals are found to be symptomatic or test positive; physical distancing; queue markers; space capacities for facilities such as dining halls and restrooms; use capacity for tight spaces such as hallways, stairways, and elevators; total capacities for existing spaces such as dorm rooms, transportation vehicles; size of gatherings; use of masks, gloves, and shields; disinfecting and cleaning procedures and timelines for high and low touch surfaces; capacities of HVAC systems including air flow and turnover rate; and movement of air in spaces should be considered. Once protocols are approved, each should be memorialized in writing and shared as appropriate with members of the institution’s community. To assist institutions in this regard, NASM will be offering a series of professional development seminars based on scientific studies now underway which are focusing on bioaerosol emissions in the performing arts and possible proactive measures that can be taken to reduce exposures. Please see information pertaining to the topic-focused session entitled, Bioaerosol Emissions in the Performing Arts – Reducing Emissions and Exposures: A Multi-Part Series listed in the Informed Decision-Making section of this webpage.

The dialogues which take place between institutions and NASM are tailored to assist and support institutions as they advance initiatives intended to strengthen the education and training provided to music students and advance the cause of music in higher education. These conversations focus on each institution individually. It is important to note that the provision of broad overarching statements which suggest general remedies or discipline-wide solutions for all could lead to incalculable harm to institutions and their students. Noting the changes being made by institutions in direct response to unfolding circumstances, some wonder whether NASM will take immediate negative action which could jeopardize the accredited status of a current institutional member. It is important to remember that NASM reviews each institution against the standards as they apply to the institution given its current and planned programs and initiatives. NASM will continue to ascertain what has been promised to students, whether these promises are being fulfilled, and whether in fulfilling its promises, the institution continues to meet applicable standards expressed primarily in functions rather than methods. It is also important to remember that NASM Commission reviews operate within an existing, established, and published system of due process – a system which opens conversations; welcomes dialogue; offers the opportunity to discuss comprehensively an institution’s initiatives, and based on these initiatives, its ongoing ability to comply with standards; and reaches conclusion only after consideration of all salient information. It is strongly recommended that institutions concerned about how standards are applied and ongoing standards compliance seek the counsel of the staff. Such conversations offer to music administrators opportunities to discuss and brainstorm a number of pressing issues. NASM continues to encourage institutions to consult with local health and safety officials, to monitor information and guidelines released by the CDC, and as necessary, to seek review by legal counsel of any potential risk and/or liability which could be associated with decisions pertaining to resumption of on ground activities.

Assistance

Q: During these challenging times where can I find assistance?

A: Various types of assistance can be found within and beyond NASM. Colleagues: The comfort of colleagues can and should be sought. Those who share an understanding of the challenges we face on a daily basis and provide kind and reassuring words at just the right moment, can awaken our tired and worn spirits and rejuvenate our resolve. Peer Institutions: The practices of peers may be helpful to know, but implementation of the practices of others should be studied carefully and undertaken only if the practice aligns with the institution’s intentions and abilities. NASM Staff: NASM staff members are available to discuss NASM policies, protocols, procedures and standards, and those of external agencies/entities that may have a bearing on an institution’s ability to maintain compliance with applicable NASM standards. Please do not hesitate to contact the staff before a thought turns into a worry, before a curiosity grows into a saga of epic proportion. A list of staff names and assigned responsibilities may be found online. Staff members stand ready to offer assistance. As well, please do not hesitate to contact the Executive Director if assistance is required (kmoynahan@arts-accredit.org; (703) 437-0700, ext. 116). Remember that regardless of how weary you are, you have more power than you know. Look to each other for comfort, to the activities of others for inspiration, to the work of those with appropriate expertise for information, to the work we as a field have accomplished as a source of pride. Have faith in your wisdom, your fortitude, and your ability to address what arrives on your desks tomorrow knowing that your leadership is ever more critical during these challenging and unprecedented times.