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Is Accreditation Necessary?




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Question: Is Accreditation Necessary?
Just because a school claims membership in a state, regional or national association doesn't mean that it is accredited. Many schools claim to be accredited when, in reality, they are not. Accreditation is a status granted by organizations which have been authorized by state authorities to do so. Accreditation is a highly prized designation which has to be earned by the accredited schools. Accreditation is your guarantee that a school has met certain minimum standards during a thorough review by a body of its peers.
Answer: Accreditation implies approval of a school's programs and their implementation. It implies ongoing development and adherence to established standards. It demonstrates to present and future clientele that the institution is serious about its mission. It validates a school's hard work and progress in a variety of important areas. Parents should ask if a school is accredited as it indicates that the school has undergone a rigorous program of peer review.


Approval is not granted just because a school applies for accreditation and pays a fee. Look at the process by which hundreds of private schools have achieved accreditation in NEASC. The oldest of the six regional accrediting associations, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges was founded in 1885. It now claims some 1,848 schools and colleges in New England as accredited members. In addition it has over 92 overseas schools which have met its criteria. The Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools lists similar standards for its member institutions. These are serious, exhaustive evaluations of schools, their programs and their facilities.

Schools Must Maintain Accreditation

Accreditation is not permanent. It must be maintained. A school has to demonstrate during a regular review process that it has developed and grown, not just maintained the status quo. The Obligations of Affiliation, for instance, of the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges specifically states that a member school must undergo review not later than five years after original accreditation was granted, and not later than ten years after each satisfactory review. As Selby Holmberg said in Education Week, "As an observer and evaluator of a number of independent school accrediting programs, I have learned that they are interested above all in standards of educational excellence."


The word standards has been used seven times so far in this short piece. But that's what accreditation is all about: standards, high standards, uniform standards. Standards are important to parents who are investing in their child's future. The question every parent is silently asking is a simple "Is it worth it?" High standards reassure him that it is indeed worth it.

Submit to Scrutiny

Think of accreditation as analogous to earning a doctorate. Attaining the bachelor's degree is fairly easy. The master's degree is considerably more difficult. But a terminal degree requires the defense of your work and ideas before a body of your peers. You must undergo a careful scrutiny before you are found worthy. Then, once you have attained that lofty pinnacle, you must maintain your body of expertise or lose credibility. That's what accreditation is like for schools. Accreditation is a serious stamp of approval. It is your guarantee that a school has met certain minimum standards during a thorough review by a body of its peers.

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