Established 2016 Middle States Self-Study and Reaccreditation
We are proud that as a result of our most recent decennial evaluation, JTS was reaccredited on June 23, 2016, by action of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (3624 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-2680; (267) 284-5000; www.msche.org). As part of the evaluation process, a March 2016 Visiting Team preliminary report indicated that JTS was in compliance with all requirements and standards for accreditation. The report included six commendations.
The full Commission action of June 23, 2016, recorded the following action:
To reaffirm accreditation. To request a progress report, due April 1, 2018, documenting further progress on the implementation of (1) a documented, organized, and sustained assessment process to evaluate and improve the total range of programs and services; achievement of institutional mission, goals, and plans; and compliance with accreditation standards (Standard 7); and (2) clearly articulated statements of expected student learning outcomes at all levels and for all programs that aim to foster student learning and development (Standard 14). The date for the next accreditation review will be determined by the Commission when it revises the accreditation cycle.
The reaccreditation process involved many JTS community members including students, faculty, staff, administration, Board of Trustees, alumni, and other JTS supporters.
Background to the Reaccreditation Process
Every 10 years the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) conducts an in-depth review of virtually all aspects of The Jewish Theological Seminary for the purpose of reaccreditation. The review, starting with a wide-ranging process of “Self-Study,” began in fall 2013 and culminated with a visit from a Middle States team of peer evaluators in spring 2016. The Self-Study process was an opportunity for JTS to evaluate its academic, governance, and operational components, assessing strengths and identifying areas for improvement. It allowed the opportunity to ask, “What do we do? How do we know it? How do we show it?”
Specifically, the JTS campus community aimed, collectively, to achieve the following results through the process of Self-Study:
- Bring together various constituencies throughout the campus community in order to deepen institutional self-awareness in relation to our mission.
- Celebrate institutional growth and improvement since our last decennial review and identify ways to strengthen and grow so that we may forcefully carry out our mission for years to come.
- Demonstrate compliance with MSCHE Characteristics of Excellence.
- Monitor and strengthen ongoing planning and assessment processes as a reflection of our commitment to ongoing institutional improvement.
In order to explore virtually all aspects of JTS as part of the Self-Study process, a basic two-part organizational structure was established: the Self-Study Executive Committee (four people) and a larger Self-Study Steering Committee. The Steering Committee included the Executive Committee and the co-chairs of six work groups. Each work group comprised a diverse representation of members of the JTS community, and was tasked with addressing one to three of the 14 Middle States’ Standards of Accreditation organized around the following themes:
- “Who We Are”
- “Institutional Resources”
- “The Student Experience”
- “Educational Mission”
- “Institutional Assessment”
- “Academic Assessment”
Each work group reviewed the extent to which JTS demonstrated compliance with Middle States’ Standards and identified critical issues and suggestions for improvement. JTS work group plans, including a list of work group members, a timetable, and templates for reporting, were compiled into a Self-Study Design Document, which was submitted to MSCHE on May 1, 2014, and approved following Middle States’ vice president Dr. Tito Guerrero’s site visit (as JTS liaison) on May 14, 2014. Those plans included a “charge” for each group, explaining the group’s theme and primary “assignment,” and a list of research questions to guide research and analysis. In addition, each group developed a preliminary index of materials to be used for its research.
The actual research and analysis phases of Self-Study commenced in fall 2014 and continued through the spring 2015 semester. Work group reports were compiled into a single report, with a first draft completed at the end of summer 2015. The final Self-Study was due in spring 2016, in time for the Middle States’ peer evaluation that took place March 13–16, 2016. We then then looked to the Middle States Commission’s review of our Self-Study document and site visit, receiving the MSCHE reaccreditation report during the summer of 2016.
There were a number of opportunities for virtually every member of the JTS community—students, staff, faculty, trustees, administration, alumni, and supporters—to be involved in some aspect of our Self-Study, whether by participation in a Self-Study work group subcommittee, completing relevant survey forms, being consulted by work group members, or reacting to Self-Study documents. This entire undertaking was a fruitful one, guiding the process of self-reflection and assessment. We also know it will be both meaningful and useful to those committed to the vitality of JTS for many years to come.
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JTS Self-Study Documents
Middle States Self-Study Design Document and Timetable, 2014