Independent schools are different from one another by nature. Therefore, they must be studied from different points of view for their quality programs to become evident. With that in mind, SAIS schools are asked to choose a method of evaluation that most aligns with the regular, on-going vision or plan in place at the school. Self-study and planning indicate that the school is committed to a growth mindset as it actively engages with current realities and future aspirations through the lens of its mission.
Choosing its own best method of self-study is an expression of a school's independence.
A school's self-study may be almost any rational form of self-study that a school may choose which best suits its community and culture. The three basic requirements of any self-study are that it is: mission-focused or mission-driven, comprehensive of all aspects of school life, and inclusive of representatives of all stakeholder groups. The self-study process should result in the identification of specific and meaningful institutional goals. A school can use any self-study method generally recognized in the independent school world: NAIS strategic visioning process, school improvement plan, school renewal process, long-range planning, school wide SWOT analysis, etc. The school's ability to choose its own path is one of the distinctive features of the SAIS accreditation process. All self-study methodologies have an analysis and response to accreditation standards, engagement of stakeholders, analysis of data and data collection processes, benchmarking and environmental scanning, and mission relevance and mission fulfillment data. The School Report (see below) requires that a school identify, demonstrate, and document a continuous process of improvement.
One of the keys to the success of self-study and evaluation is that a school has benchmarks in place. The benchmarks should consist of recognized indicators that may be used as a basis for determining whether or not a school shows improvement from year to year. The school's planning documents should clearly indicate the chosen benchmarks and dashboard indicators. The following are some possible benchmarks to consider: