Accreditation Services > The Value of Accreditation

the value of accreditation - part 2

April 25, 2018 - In the January 2018 survey, Heads of School were asked, “How do the self-study, visiting team report, and strategic planning contribute to ongoing improvement in your school?” Their answers reflected the general wisdom of the accreditation process – that schools benefit most from the synergy that emerges when these processes are deliberately integrated. Members of the school community feel that their perspectives are valued and that they have provided important input into school improvement. Heads of School offered these insights:

I believe that all of these items work together for school improvement in vital ways.  The self study allows for a school to review its programs and operations and note areas for improvement, the strategic plan implements a plan of action to address these areas of need, and the visiting team report not only endorses this plan, but can also support the school in making sure this plan is carried out.

These processes bring all constituents of a school together as true stakeholders; individuals who are committed to accomplishing the strategic goals that have been determined.

The self-study and visiting team report help us 1) set strategic goals; 2) prioritize among those goals; 3) understand the relationships between goals and the necessary sequencing; and 4) give us "permission" to set some things aside.

All three are connected and should ideally be in sync with one another. The self study should drive continuous improvement, the visiting team report should confirm the school's direction, and the strategic plan should align with the goals for improvement.

ISACS also values the input that school heads have given toward improving the accreditation process. To that end, plans are in place to:

  • Survey schools that have undergone the accreditation visit during the past two years to collect data about the cost of accreditation.
  • Update the school community survey to ensure that crucial elements included in the current standards for membership are included.
  • Improve training and support for visiting team leaders and members.
  • Analyze trends across independent school associations as accreditation processes evolve to explore future options for ISACS accreditation.

Previous Posts


accreditation overview

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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