Accreditation Services > The Value of Accreditation

Results of the Heads’ Accreditation Survey

In late January 2018, we asked Heads of School to complete a brief survey about the accreditation process. 66 school leaders completed the survey – thank you! According to the top three themes that emerged in answer to the question “As Head of School, what is the value of accreditation?”, the accreditation process:

  • Provides the school with external validation and keeps us accountable (52%)
  • Contributes to ongoing school improvement (45%)
  • Provides schools with an opportunity to reflect and study ourselves (42%)

Here are a few comments that encapsulated the benefits beautifully:

The accreditation process is a disciplined and regular means of assessing whether we are who we say we are as a school community.  The process also helps ensure that we are growing in the ways we need to grow as a school community.

The value of accreditation is allowing "metacognition" of the many ways a school can and should best function to deliver its mission.  It is done, much like good teacher appraisal at the micro level, by using a "mirror" to allow for self awareness and self correction.  Moreover, it is a chance to create a common vision for the immediate future and making sure all are focused on the most important work we can do - improving student learning in its many forms.

It provides a rigorous, transparent, collaborative process to reflect on our mission, goals and achievements and set new goals. It demonstrates to all constituents that as an educational institution we take learning and growth seriously and it is not a task merely relegated to students.

No matter where your school is in the accreditation cycle, I encourage you to look for its contribution to the school moving forward. Then share some tangible outcomes with your school community that illustrate how the time and energy devoted to accreditation leads to school progress.

- submitted March 7, 2018

the value of accreditation

ISACS offers a comprehensive approach to accreditation based on a seven-year cycle and three overall principles:

  1. Compliance with the ISACS standards for membership;
  2. Full and complete disclosure of a school’s mission, philosophy, program, qualifications of its professional staff, procedures, and services, and congruence between the school’s stated mission and its actual program and services; and
  3. Completion of the ISACS school improvement process, including self-study and external review of strengths, challenges and plans and priorities in all areas of the school.

These principles characterize all our accredited schools and still allow for great diversity in mission, philosophy, program, and style.

While accreditation (or some other form of approval, recognition, or licensing) can be obtained from several other organizations, including state and the five regional accrediting bodies for colleges and schools, independent schools often find the following specific advantages in the ISACS accreditation program:

  • The process involves a peer review, conducted by those who understand and appreciate independent school qualities and contributions to American education, including faculty as well as administrators;
  • The standards and procedures have been developed for independent, not public, schools;
  • Wherever possible, standards are directed toward quality of school product or outcomes rather than typical "input" factors (such as teacher certification, number of books in the library, etc.);
  • School improvement, while informed by data, is not driven by test scores but is pursued as a comprehensive process involving all aspects of human growth and learning;
  • The process provides flexibility for unique situations and needs. Schools are required to plan a self-study process, within certain guidelines, that will most help the school in its own search for excellence;
  • In both philosophy and practice, the focus of the ISACS accreditation program is on the development and nurturance of excellence rather than certification. The principal objectives are to provide a stimulus for excellence, help the school assess its strengths and weaknesses, and help the school confirm the validity of its priorities and planning for improvement.

While the United States Department of Education can only recognize accrediting bodies for higher and adult education, ISACS accreditation is recognized by the U.S. Government for such purposes as certification by the Immigration and Naturalization Service for foreign students and access to military academies and programs. Most of the states in which member schools are located recognize ISACS accreditation, and some accept it in lieu of their own approval process. Universities and colleges throughout the country recognize ISACS accreditation, and ISACS is recognized by the College Board as an accrediting body for secondary schools located in this region.

The ISACS accreditation program has national recognition through an umbrella review process developed in 1989 by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) and other independent school associations. The umbrella review process is similar to that used by the U.S. Department of Education in reviewing accrediting bodies for higher and adult education; it involves a detailed petition (self-study) and on-site visits by the NAIS Commission on Accreditation to two ISACS school accreditation visits and to a meeting of the ISACS Accreditation Review Committee. ISACS was the first of the independent school association accrediting bodies to complete the review process successfully; it received its NAIS recognition in June 1990. Its latest renewal came in September 2009. Click here to view the current ISACS Certificate of Accreditation.

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