Accreditation for Private Schools: is it Necessary?
There are many public and private schools in a given city, state, and region. Each one will claim to offer the best academic program. It might sound surprising, but not all of them have the proper accreditation that serves as proof that they can produce graduates who have accomplished the necessary graduation requirements and have met the minimum academic requirements required of each grade level.
Accreditation: The Low Down
The state and the national authorities authorize organizations to give accreditation to private schools. These organizations are in charge of reviewing applications for accreditation. They may or may not grant it to a private school.
With the accreditation, the schools can provide the necessary documents and school records certifying that a student has met the minimum requirements set by its peers in academics.
Having accreditation is a highly sought-after status by private schools because it means that the school meets the minimum requirements and can produce graduates eligible to apply for college or university level education. The school is authorized to issue transcripts and diplomas that can be deemed acceptable by various colleges and universities.
How to Earn Accreditation
To get accreditation from any awarding organization, schools must meet specific standards and comply with the requirements. Getting accreditation is an on-going process. Once a school earns accreditation, they must continuously work to maintain it if they wish to maintain their affiliation with the organization. On top of this, they have to pay a fee that will cover the assessment process and the membership fee with the accrediting organization.
There are several authorized accrediting organizations that a school can apply for. In general, the initial accreditation will happen in three phases: (1) an internal assessment or self-evaluation of the school by its Head of School and officers, (2) a review of the internal assessment by a reviewing/assessing committee, and (3) multi-day visit conducted by the committee.
The school must conduct an internal assessment of its strengths and areas for improvement based on the accrediting organization’s standards. All school areas, including but not limited to academic standards, student life, admissions, and residential life (for boarding schools). The Head of School will work closely with other school officers to compile the requirements with the corresponding related documents for reference. This will then be submitted to a committee from the accrediting organization to review the application and see if it meets the standards. The committee will schedule a school visit, which will happen over several days, to observe the implementation of the school’s policies and procedures. They may conduct formal and informal interviews with members of the school community.
The self-evaluation or internal assessment has to be transparent and updated. If a school submits a report that appears too good to be true, it might backfire and lead to more scrutiny.
The reviewing/assessing committee will communicate its findings to the school. They will make short-term and long-term recommendations, which the school must act upon to earn the accreditation.
Maintaining accreditation is a comprehensive and rigorous process, which private schools should work for. Accreditation is only valid for a given period, which means it’s not permanent. The accrediting committee will be conducting another round of assessments to see if the school is aligned with its standards and if there have been any improvements since the previous visits. The committee has the right to reinstate or revoke the accreditation.