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What is accreditation?

Accreditation is a voluntary process of self-evaluation and continuous improvement that reflects compliance with required standards/indicators, involves a self-study, and includes a peer review by educators from outside of your school. Independent schools that seek accreditation through SAIS understand that our process is designed specifically with you in mind. SAIS accreditation allows you to tell your story, to set your goals, and to be independent, while still fulfilling the stringent and focused compliance requirements of our process. SAIS accreditation focuses on your school and your efforts to fulfill the school’s mission.

SAIS: In The World

The SAIS model of accreditation is practiced throughout the southeastern United States and several countries and principalities located in Latin America and the Caribbean. SAIS has been engaged with school quality through accreditation in one form or another for more than a century. The roots of SAIS can be traced to the original creation of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) whose founding members included college presidents and heads from southern independent schools. In 1903, the Mid-South Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) was formed in order to give southern schools an opportunity to engage with each other through networking, professional development, and some interscholastic activities. In 1953, the Southern Association of Independent Schools (SAIS) was formed by and for southern heads so that they could have a coordinated voice in the expanding world of school accountability through accreditation. The Mid-South Association and the Southern Association merged in 1986 and retained the SAIS name.

SAIS accreditation was first offered in 2002 and has seen several revisions of indicators and practice as we have continued to refine the process. In 2004, SAIS partnered with SACS in the creation of the SAIS-SACS accreditation process, which spoke to the needs of both of the organizations, and more importantly, to the needs of independent schools across the traditional southeastern region.

SAIS partners with different national and international agencies to accredit or co-accredit schools. These agencies include: AdvancED/SACS, the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSA), the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), the American Montessori Society (AMS), the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA), the Association of Christian Schools International (ASCI), Christian Schools International (CSI), and several state-based organizations.

The SAIS accreditation process and protocols have been approved formally by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) Commission on Accreditation and the Virginia Council on Private Education (VCPE). SAIS is specifically named as an accepted accreditor in state law and/or Department of Education administrative code in many states. The federal government recognizes SAIS accreditation for the purposes of issuing student exchange documentation through the Department of Homeland Security. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) recognizes SAIS accreditation in determining athletic eligibility for incoming student-athletes.

We are already over a decade into the 21st century and schools of the future require an accreditation model of the future. An accreditation of the future must be focused on the needs of the individual school and must be flexible enough to allow schools to be creative. Just as no school should impede the progress of an individual student, no accrediting agency should either burden a school with tedious and irrelevant steps or limit a school’s own best thinkers. Accreditation serves the needs of the school, not the needs of the association.

As the single largest independent school accrediting organization in North America, SAIS is not only the leader in accrediting for the future, but also dedicated to helping schools fulfill their missions. The SAIS model of accreditation partners with the school as they grow.


SAIS is a certified member of the Commission on Accreditation, currently overseen by NAIS. Not unlike a school accreditation, SAIS voluntarily participates in a rigorous and impartial review of its accreditation program, and demonstrates adherence to the Commission’s Criteria for Effective Independent School Accreditation Practices. For more information about the NAIS Commission on Accreditaiton, click here.

To view our certificate, click here.

Accreditation Portal

Click here for access to the SAIS Accreditation Portal. The Portal is the online tool that SAIS has created to help schools and teams experience SAIS accreditation.

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