What does it mean for my child's school to be accredited?
- Accreditation (noun): certification that a school meets all formal official requirements of academic excellence, curriculum, facilities, etc.
- SAIS accreditation (noun): verification that a school understands its past, present, and future and is absolutley committed to its mission and its growth mindset.
||You may have seen an image like the one above on your child's school website or printed materials. Or you may have seen your school's accreditation certificate displayed in the school office. If your child's school is currently accredited via the SAIS process, this means that the school complied with quality standards, was evaluated by an outside group of peer professionals, has implemented a school plan focused on strategic improvement and student performance, and has garnered the recognition of the Southern Association of Independent Schools (SAIS). For a brief history of SAIS, please click here to visit the "History of SAIS" webpage.
Accreditation is a lengthy, involved, and voluntary process, one that continues past the actual receipt of the designation, as schools constantly seek ways to improve and to act upon the recommendations of the accreditation team.
The accreditation process consists of three distinct, yet overlapping parts: demonstrated compliance with a set of community and research-based standards, a thorough self-study that leads to institutional goals for deeper fulfillment of the mission, and a peer review to ascertain the level of commitment to mission and to provide feedback and guiding questions for the school.
The SAIS Standards for Accreditation cover the following topics:
- Governance and Leadership
- Teaching and Learning
- Stakeholder Communication and Relationships
- Resources and Support Systems
The school's self-study can be conducted in a way that is culturally appropriate for the school and takes advantage of the resources available to the school. SAIS requires that the self-study be mission centered, comprehensive of all phases of school life, and demonstrate input from representation of all stakeholder groups. The result of self-study is institutional goals that will advance the mission of the school. SAIS asks schools to apply four critical questions to their institutional goals:
- Do you know where you are? (Profile)
- Do you know what you want to be? (Vision)
- Do you know where you want to go? (Plan)
- Do you know how you are going to get there? (Results)
Trained peers review the school's self-study and provide feedback to the school's responses to the critical questions. This feedback is used to help the school continue in its planning and is the most progressive part of the unique methodology of SAIS accreditation. SAIS partners with many high quality organizations such as state-based associations (ex. VAIS, FCIS, MAIS), other regional accrediting organizations (such as AdvancED/SACS, Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, the Western Association of Colleges and Schools), religious organizations (ex. ACIS, NCSA, CSI), and pedagogically-based organizations (ex. Montessori and Waldorf). Where other accrediting processes end, (generally only considering compliance), the SAIS model is just getting started.
The SAIS Accreditation Committee, a group of highly qualified school administrators, then reviews the visiting team's report and votes on the school's eligibility for accreditation.
Once successful, the school is required to maintain its compliance with standards and to report regularly on the achievement of its goals. A re-accreditation visit must occur every five years.
SAIS Accreditation represents a school's commitment to maintain only the highest principles and values, while speaking with its own voice and its own vision. This delivers on the promise of an independent school education for your child.