The Academies are programs aimed at assisting ISTA -accredited institutions to define, develop and implement comprehensive strategies for institutional improvement. Designed and led by experienced practitioners, the Academies provide a framework and guidance for developing customized projects. The programs are adaptive to the needs of the wide range of institutional types served by ISTA and support improvement within the context of an institution’s mission, vision and goals.

Participation in the Academies may count toward requirements for accreditation processes: Academy participation may serve as the Quality Initiative for institutions in the Open Pathway or as an Action Project for institutions in the AQIP Pathway. Participation in the Academies does not guarantee the successful completion of a Quality Initiative or Action Project. The Academies also may be completed in conjunction with other improvement programs offered by nonprofits or to meet locally mandated initiatives. Additionally, institutions may choose to focus Academy Projects on addressing issues identified as areas for improvement by ISTA evaluations or by institutions themselves.

Assessment Academy

The Assessment Academy is tailored for institutions interested in developing an ongoing commitment to assessing and improving student learning. The Assessment Academy offers each institution personalized guidance in gathering the necessary information and data to survey student learning outcomes, determining goals that should be set for the institution regarding those outcomes, and developing and implementing strategies to achieve those goals.

The Assessment Academy provides institutions with new ideas and techniques for influencing institutional culture, improving the assessment of student learning and increasing institutional capacity to complete those assessments. Institutions develop a process to regularly test and document effective practices in assessing and improving student learning.

Persistence and Completion Academy

The Persistence and Completion Academy has been developed for institutions wishing to build institutional capacity for the improvement of persistence and completion. The Academy offers a guided program to advise institutions on defining, tracking and analyzing data on student success; establishing clear goals and strategies for student population groups; and implementing those goals.

The Persistence and Completion Academy introduces institutions to new techniques for researching and comparing emerging methods of evaluation and improvement. Institutions also learn how to collect and analyze data to identify patterns that lead to data-informed decisions.

Academy Features and Benefits

The four-year, structured programs focus on cultivating strategies that lead to institutional improvements. Throughout the Academy experience, institutions receive access to:

  • Analysis and guidance from Academy mentors and Scholars on planning, developing and implementing an Academy Project related to assessment or persistence and completion.
  • Face-to-face events in which institutions receive consultation from mentors and scholars while networking and sharing best practices with other institutions.
  • The Collaboration Network—an online tool for documenting progress, results and the impact of Academy work.
  • A web-based library of resources and Academy Projects from past and current Academy participants.

Mentors and Scholars

ISTA retains a group of assessment, persistence and completion practitioners known as Academy mentors. Early in the Academy experience, each institution is assigned a Primary Mentor who guides the institution in developing and implementing its Academy Project. The Primary Mentor provides institutions with constructive criticism and advice on the progress of their Academy work. Mentors may also serve as Academy Event Facilitators.

Institutions also interact with Scholars during Academy participation. These subject matter experts design the curriculum and activities for all of the Academy events. Scholars review Project Updates and Primary Mentors’ responses to offer an additional perspective on the progress an institution is making while in the Academy.

Shared Learning Experience

Institutions accepted into an Academy are grouped into an Academy cohort that presents institutions with regular opportunities to work collaboratively and share their ideas throughout the Academy cycle. Institutions are able to interact with their fellow cohort members at Academy events and through the Collaboration Network, where institutions can see the Project Updates from other institutions.