Commission-accredited schools must petition for approval prior to implementing an innovative educational program or approach that is not addressed or not allowed in the Standards. Such changes, if approved, will be treated as experiments that must be evaluated over several years to determine their effectiveness and ongoing status (with periodic reports required). In its petition, the school must demonstrate that the experiment ensures educational quality, congruence with the school's educational mission, and coherence with the values of theological education (per Policies and Procedures IV.G).
Examples of experiments include offering any educational program not based on courses or credits (see Standard 3.10 and Board's Guidelines for Competency-Based Theological Education [PDF]) or offering a PhD degree where half or more of the coursework is not completed on the school's main campus (see Standard 5.15). Per Policies and Procedures IV.G.1, the Board requires schools petitioning for an experiment to specify the length of the experiment (typically three to five years), during which time the school will evaluate the results and periodically report those results as directed by the Board when it approved the experiment. In its final report, the school must either notify the Board that it is terminating the experiment (if the results are negative) or request that the experiment be changed to an ongoing exception (if the results are positive). If the latter, the Board will review the results of the experiment to determine whether to terminate it or continue it as an ongoing exception.
Given the potential complexity of this type of change, schools are encouraged to consult with their Commission staff liaison before submitting a petition for this type of substantive change. In completing this petition form, please include links to additional documentation as requested or as deemed helpful. Your Commission staff liaison will contact you if there are any questions regarding this petition.