History of SAIS  

SAIS began its organizational life in 1903 as the Mid-South Association of Independent Schools (MAIS), providing training for teachers in private schools and some early public schools in the Southeastern states. In 1953, another organization began as the Southern Association of Independent Schools, providing a forum for independent school administrators to work with public schools through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and to contribute to the larger interest in regional accreditation. MAIS and SAIS merged in 1986 to form the present-day SAIS, with an emphasis on accreditation and professional development.

The focus of SAIS’s interest when it began in 1953 was to develop and maintain relationships with the expanding organization of SACS in order to ensure significant input from independent schools into the exploding world of public school accreditation. The post-WWII years of baby booming, facility planning, teacher training, and legislative entitlement funding eclipsed the scope and role of private education in America close to the current level of service.

Part of this history of negotiating standards in a predominantly public school oriented world of education caused SAIS to embark on its own method of accreditation in the late '90s. The efforts resulted in the "SAIS-only" method available to member schools.

Understanding our accreditation history

SAIS has always been concerned with accreditation and its impact on the quality of school organization and service.  Since the 1986 merger of the former SAIS and the former MAIS, schools in the Southeast have argued more and more forcefully for a place at the decision tables related to accreditation in the Southeast, despite the modest proportion of schools. During the course of the past 20 years, independent school quality and benefit has been recognized only after hard-fought argument. Now, at the beginning of this century of educational service to the nation, independent schools are becoming the model of educational method even for many new conceptions of public schools, for emerging charter schools, and for home schooling networks.

The past five years have provided SAIS with a platform to design and use two significant programs of accreditation to assist member schools as they develop and promote high quality education in this region. The SAIS-only and the SAIS-SACS dual methods of accreditation are the components of this program. SAIS member schools may choose which method is best suited to their needs. Either leads to recognition of high quality by SAIS; one also leads to recognition by SACS.

Since the SAIS-SACS dual accreditation program began in 2005, SAIS has experienced an increasing demand for membership and accreditation.  In order to maintain the quality and meaning of the SAIS “brand” of accreditation, the organization’s membership criteria has been updated.  The membership criteria in place for SAIS today is much different than in the past.  Schools that joined the organization under the old criteria were grandfathered.  However, all member schools (even those that were grandfathered) are encouraged to meet the current criteria and seek accreditation, both of which show signs of a quality school.  If you have any questions about the current membership criteria, please contact Damian Kavanagh at (404) 918-8850 or membership@sais.org.

Relationship with SACS

Established in 1895, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (commonly referred to as SACS) is a non-governmental, voluntary organization that accredits more than 13,000 public and non-public institutions from early childhood through university. Since its inception, SACS has served the educational community by dedicating its mission to helping schools improve student learning. Today, SACS is the largest accrediting agency in the world and is one of only six agencies that accredit both public and nonpublic educational institutions.

The current SAIS-SACS partnership offers schools a process for dual accreditation. In today’s world of accountability in schooling, accreditation serves as a critical component of a school’s demonstrated effectiveness and ability to provide successful schooling for children. A school that is able to achieve accreditation demonstrates a commitment to a process that requires the school to meet a set of rigorous, research-based standards; to engage in a program of continuous school improvement; and to demonstrate quality assurance to its stakeholders through self-evaluation and peer review. SAIS-SACS accreditation provides schools access to an integrated network of services and technical assistance that supports every school’s ability to identify and meet its goals for improving student performance and the teaching and learning process.

A SAIS-SACS accredited school is part of an international network of accredited schools which have demonstrated success in educating children. As such, SAIS-SACS accreditation is recognized throughout the world as a symbol of quality in education for students and teachers.

To earn accreditation, schools must meet quality standards, be evaluated by an outside group of peer professionals, and implement a school plan focused on strategic improvement and student performance. Accreditation is voluntary and must be renewed each year.

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