Criteria for Effective Independent School Accreditation

Criteria for Regional and State Associations

1. The association holds schools accountable to a comprehensive set of standards related to the educational program and issues of institutional health.

2. The association, recognizing that accreditation is a peer review process, institutes policies and procedures that ensure fairness and impartiality and that are free of conflicts of interest, both in appearance and in fact.

3. The accreditation process consists of a continuing cycle: self-study by the school, visit and report by a team of trained peers, action by the association, and follow-up by the school and the association.

4. The association monitors the school’s compliance with standards and its progress in addressing the recommendations of the self-study and of the visiting team report. The association also regularly solicits reports from schools on substantive institutional change and reviews the school’s accreditation status in the light of those changes.

5. The decision-making and appeal processes regarding accreditation status and /or changes in the accreditation cycle are clear and understandable. Policies and procedures are available for public review.

6. The association offers formal and comprehensive preparation and training for all participants in the accreditation process, including team chairs and members, heads of school, self-study coordinators, and association boards and commissions.

7. The association engages in regular evaluation and review of its standards and accreditation process and solicits reports from schools and visiting teams on their experience with the process.

8. The association designates a decision-making body charged with overseeing the evaluation and accreditation process and making final decisions regarding accreditation.

9. The accreditation process will examine the whole school, including all divisions and those programs that are included in the accreditation.

10. The association has a procedure, available to the public and clearly explained, to handle complaints that accredited schools are not meeting standards.

Criteria for Standards

11. The accreditation process rests on comprehensive standards which schools must meet. The standards address all areas of school life, including the following: mission, governance, finance, program, community of the school, administration, development, admissions, personnel, health and safety, facilities, student services, school culture, and residential life (where applicable).

12. The standards require schools to conduct a thoughtful assessment of individual student progress consistent with the school’s mission.

13. The standards require a school to provide evidence of a thoughtful process, respectful of its mission, for informed decision-making that draws on data (both internal and external) about student learning. 

14. The standards require a school to demonstrate that its educational programs, instructional practices, and institutional culture are informed by relevant research regarding how students learn and the knowledge and capacities they will need to lead purposeful and constructive lives.

Criteria for the Self-Study

15. A broad cross-section of the community (including all faculty and staff, as well as members of the governing body and others in the community, as appropriate) participate in preparing the self-study.

16. The self-study includes reflection and self-analysis as well as description, identifies strengths and weaknesses, assesses both the school’s compliance with standards and the congruence between its program and mission, and balances documentation of accountability to association standards with a focus on school improvement. The school will also provide all required documents in a timely fashion.

17. The self-study process is deliberative, and the self-study report reflects the considered judgment of the school’s professional community.

Criteria for the Visiting Team

18. The accrediting association appoints a visiting team chair who shall be responsible to follow the accrediting association’s guidelines, to ensure the visiting team’s effectiveness, and to protect the integrity of the process.

19. The accrediting association appoints a visiting team to conduct a site visit while school is in session.

20. The association is mindful of the circumstances of the school and the full range of the standards in determining the size and selecting the members of a visiting team.

21. The visiting team receives advance materials in a timely fashion and arrives at the school fully prepared.

22. The team observes the program and interviews school staff, trustees and others as appropriate. It validates the self-study, evaluates the school’s compliance with standards, and writes a report with commendations and recommendations which is sent to the association and to the school in a timely fashion. The report is confidential, except as authorized by the school. Any release of parts or all of the report to the public must follow association guidelines.

23. The length of the visit is sufficient to accomplish the above.

24. The members of the visiting team hold confidential the information they receive and their discussions during the accreditation process.

Criteria for the Association Review 

25. The association, or a representative committee, receives and reviews the self-study, and visiting team report, determines the accreditation status of the school, prescribes appropriate actions, and sets up a schedule for future reports and visits. The school is given an opportunity to respond to the report of the visiting committee in advance of the association taking action on its accreditation.

26. The association notifies the board chair, as well as the head of school, concerning decisions related to a school’s accreditation.