August 2021 News from CEA

Message from Connie Lee, 2021 Commission Chair

Greetings from CEA. It’s my honor to serve as CEA’s chair as we continue to work to overcome the many challenges present in the field today with resilience and creativity. This issue of News from CEA reports on several projects that have been undertaken and accomplished during 2021. As CEA’s chair, I’ve continued to work with my Commission colleagues and CEA staff to navigate the virtual environment we’ve all become accustomed to. This year, all Commission meetings have been held virtually, and the Commission has accomplished all of its regular tasks in addition to some exciting work for CEA’s future. In addition to holding regular annual orientation of new commissioners and the full Commission, the Commission has continued to make accreditation decisions, and review compliance reports as well as holding professional development sessions and committee meetings according to schedule. Though we hope to convene in person later this year for our December meeting, we continue to closely monitor the ongoing situation to see whether that will be possible.

CEA’s dedicated reviewer pool has continued to conduct site visits according to the Section 23 Temporary Policy Adaptations enacted by the Commission last year in June 2020. Though there are some in-person visits scheduled in the remainder of 2021, the Hybrid Site Visit policy, which allows for a virtual review, will stay in place until rescinded or revoked by the Commission. These policies have allowed the Commission to support accredited sites by allowing extensions of eligibility during prolonged periods of non-operation as well as extensions of time to complete the reaccreditation self-study and site visit process if needed.

Further below you’ll find a summary of CEA’s work, but I want to especially highlight three areas prioritized by the 2021 Commission so far this year. Those of you who were able to attend the virtual Constituent Council meeting in June, which is CEA’s Annual Business meeting, had a preview of these topics. First, the review of the CEA Standards document as a whole, which takes place every ten years, began last year, and has continued throughout this year. The Standards Review Committee, a standing subcommittee of the Commission, has continued its work in assuring the clarity of the standards to ensure reliable application of the standards. In addition, the work on CEA’s next strategic plan began last year around this time, and I’m pleased to report that the Commission has approved CEA’s next strategic plan at its recent August meeting. The Commission is responsible for governance as well as accreditation decision-making, so the Commission sets the strategic priorities and staff is tasked with carrying them out. Stay tuned for more information about the strategic plan, and many thanks to all of you who contributed to the process through participation in interviews, focus groups, or surveys. Consistent with CEA’s focus on continuous improvement, I established a task force for 2021 to focus on distance education. The Distance Education Task Force was charged with a review of CEA standards, materials and policies related permanent, post-pandemic, approval of distance education programs. Staff reports that there is some interest among CEA-accredited programs and institutions in continuing to deliver online instruction after the pandemic has ended, so the work of the task force will inform CEA’s future accreditation activities.

The Nominating Committee is finalizing its work on the slate for the Commission ballot. I am excited to receive the names of the Commission nominees and for the work they will be doing, if elected. Personally, the Commission service has been the best professional development experience I’ve had, as I continue to work and grow with dedicated professionals in our field. I look forward to sharing that invaluable experience with more ESL professionals. Please remember that CEA runs an unopposed slate, and one of the responsibilities of the Constituent Council involves the election of commissioners. I hope you’ll take the time to vote when the ballot is sent.

In closing, I would like to take this opportunity to thank CEA staff on behalf of the Commission. Without their exceptional work, the Commission wouldn’t be able to carry out our important responsibilities. We are grateful for the quality work they consistently produce to support the Commission.

Connie Lee
2021 Commission Chair

Recent accreditation decisions
The Commission met virtually August 6-8, 2021 to make accreditation decisions and conduct other CEA business. Accreditation decisions are announced on the CEA website under Recent Decisions within 30 days of each meeting. In addition, information about other Commission activities is provided below.

Please contact Heidi Vellenga, CEA’s Executive Director at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with any questions you may have about the Commission actions, announcements and activities described below.

CEA Supports Association Response to Joint Statement
On August 20, 2021, US-based English language and international education associations sent a response to the Joint Statement of Principles from the U.S. Departments of State and Education, supported by Departments of Commerce and Homeland Security. The statement was authored by EnglishUSA, NAFSA, TESOL, and UCIEP, the four associations instrumental in CEA’s foundation as a specialized accreditation agency. CEA, along with ACCET (Accrediting Council for Continuing Education & Training), signed on in support of the statement calling for inclusion of English language programs in future national strategies to benefit international education initiatives. International students who pursue full-time English language or pathway programs in the US must study at accredited programs and language institutions. Although accreditors remain separate and independent from professional and membership associations, CEA is proud to stand in solidarity with its association colleagues in supporting federal-level initiatives to support the US-based English language program sector. For a copy of the Recommendations to include the English language program sector in the renewed commitment to international education, please click here.

CEA Statement on COVID-19
On March 11, 2020, CEA released a Statement on COVID-19 which requires accredited sites to notify CEA of any temporary accommodations made as a result of the pandemic. Throughout 2020 and 2021, CEA administered surveys to ensure consistent collection of notifications regarding procedural adaptations. The Constituent Council was reminded in an August 2021 email message that any changes to previously-submitted notifications, such as a return to in-person classes, should be reported to CEA using the This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. mailbox. Be sure to include effective dates for any changes. Based on flexibilities published by federal agencies such as SEVP (Student Exchange and Visitor Program) and USDE (United States Department of Education), CEA continues to provide temporary approval for online course delivery until the end of the declared federal emergency. US-based schools certified by SEVP should forward a copy of any procedural updates submitted to SEVP to CEA for our records, and are reminded that fully online instruction is only permitted for certain types of F-1 students. Any future required reporting with respect to COVID-19 adaptations will be announced to the primary contact on file with CEA.

Commission activities

Standards Review
The Standards Review Committee continues its review of the standards document as a whole. In addition to reviewing information about reliable application of the standards from various stakeholders, the committee reviews qualitative and quantitative data from sites which have undergone visits, from reviewers, from staff and from other sources as part of its review activities. The process culminates in proposing changes to the Commission after a public comment period, and subsequent Commission approval is required prior to implementation. Accredited sites are subject to the standards in place at the time of their attendance at an accreditation workshop, or at the time they submit an interim report, and new versions of the standards will be released with supporting documentation and informational and instructional materials.

Strategic Planning
The Commission has approved CEA’s next strategic plan during its most recent August 2021 meeting, and staff is currently preparing for implementation of the plan. Throughout the past year, CEA worked with Grace Social Sector Consulting to collect information from a variety of stakeholders and develop relevant and achievable strategic plan priorities for the next chapter in CEA’s development as a high-functioning specialized accreditation agency. Additional information about the plan, including a summary and overview of information collected in preparing for the planning process, will be distributed in the coming months.

Distance Education Task Force
In addition to the standing and ad hoc committees, a task force to examine distance education was established in 2021, as noted above. Throughout CEA’s history, distance education has been studied by various committee and Commission work groups and task forces, dating from as early as 2001. The 2021 Distance Education Task Force was appointed by the Commission chair, convened by the Accreditation Process and Technology Manager, Rachel Herman, and included current commissioners and experts from the broader English language program and accreditation communities: Andy Halvorsen, PhD, current commissioner; Odin Jurkowski, EdD, current commissioner (public member); Anna Modzelewska, MA TESOL, current commissioner; Justin Shewell, PhD, Arizona State University; and Ali DiOrio, MPH, CHES, Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH). The task force reviewed data and information from reliable sources and stakeholders, identified CEA policies, processes and/or materials that may be affected, suggested areas for consideration, and assessed the impact on CEA’s operational capacity, if any. The task force provided a report to the Commission for consideration at the August 2021 meeting, and the Commission unanimously approved the continuation of the work of the Distance Education Task Force, and thanked the members of the task force for their valuable contributions to CEA’s future work in this area.

Staff activities
Throughout 2021, CEA delivered accreditation workshops and reviewer training workshops in a virtual environment. Two accreditation and reviewer workshops were scheduled in 2021, with nearly 70 attendees projected for accreditation workshops in 2021. In June, virtual reviewer training was debuted, and CEA was pleased to welcome 19 new reviewers to the pool of trained reviewers. CEA has also begun to regularly invite new program directors to attend accreditation workshops as professional development and knowledge-building opportunities outside of the scheduled timelines. Though CEA plans to offer in-person workshop opportunities in 2022, we are likely to maintain options for virtual training events based on the success we’ve had in the past year and a half.

In-person follow-up visits
As part of the initial or reaccreditation application process, sites which underwent virtual reviews as Part I of the Hybrid Site Visit process must undergo an in-person follow-up visit within one year of the accreditation decision. CEA is currently scheduling some in-person visits during the 2021 Fall Site Visit Cycle. These 1-day visits are typically conducted by a CEA Site Visit Representative and a reviewer, and incorporate various verification activities including a campus tour, interviews, class visits, and document review. In cases where travel restrictions, reviewer availability, or other considerations result in CEA’s inability to safely conduct an in-person follow-up visit, visits may be postponed or rescheduled. The in-person follow-up visit is a requirement of CEA’s status as an accreditation agency recognized by the US Department of Education, but the timing of these visits is subject to CEA policy, which allows for some flexibility in the timing of these in-person visits. After the in-person visit, a report is produced and reviewed by the Commission. If you have any questions about site visits, please contact Melissa Van De Wege, Accreditation Review Manager, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..