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International Alliance for School Accreditation

The Council of International Schools (CIS), the Middle States Association (MSA), the North West Association of Accredited Schools (NAAS), the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) met in Boston during the AAIE conference in February to formalize an Alliance among the accrediting agencies that has been developing for the past several months.

The five agencies endorsed a general proposal for collaboration and adopted a mission statement expressing their desire to work cooperatively to strengthen accreditation practices, improve communications among the accrediting agencies, and to facilitate improvements in each associations’ standards and protocols. The five agencies agreed to work together to promote, support and improve the process of self-study and standards based peer review which is the basis for their respective accreditation processes.

The new Alliance will provide a forum for developing more efficient, effective and better coordinated services from all of the participating agencies and facilitate for all institutions eligible for accreditation the opportunity to seek co-accreditations from the various agencies. As an example, the New England Association, Western Association and Middle States Association are working to develop a new 8th edition of CIS’s protocol which will be used cooperatively with international schools around the world. Similar bi-lateral and multi-lateral agreements among the Alliance members are also being developed to address the need for national, multi-national, corporate and trans-regional accreditation.

At the Alliance meeting proposals were presented for further cooperation with both the National Association of Independent Schools and the National Council of Private School Accreditors that will likely lead to bi-lateral agreements between those two organizations and some of the Alliance members. This will increase the opportunity for member schools of both organizations to add multiple regional accreditations to their existing association accreditations. Both organizations have been invited to join the Alliance.

The Alliance plans to meet semi-annually to advance accreditation and to increase both the cooperation and collaboration among the members. Through the Alliance members hope to continue improving and increasing accreditation services to the member institutions and better coordinate services to those institutions seeking co-accreditation.

According to the interim chair of the Alliance, Dr. Henry Cram the Alliance is recognition that, “We can compete with each other and cooperate in ways that will strengthen each of our organizations, guarantee quality to our respective members and provide choices for schools seeking accreditation around the world.”

The group plans to meet again this year in Philadelphia and to hold another session in conjunction with AAIE in February 2011. Other accrediting agencies and related associations are encouraged to join the Alliance. Interested organizations can contact any of the current members for more information.

The Alliance Mission Statement

The Alliance members shall:

Promote, support and improve the tradition of regional accreditation; Commit to commonly held principles and practices including a thorough self-study and standards based peer review; Inform one another of developments in the regions; Share effective practices; and Collaborate in setting mutual expectations for policies that will preserve and improve regional accreditation.

Authentic Accreditation Defined

Authentic accreditation is a powerful and proven instrument for quality assurance and school improvement. The Alliance for School Accreditation, representing over forty associations that accredit nonpublic schools in the United States and globally, has developed a statement of core values and practices for accreditation to which all members subscribe. A central premise is that schools are accredited individually.

THE ALLIANCE FOR SCHOOL ACCREDITATION COMMON ELEMENTS OF BELIEF AND PRACTICE

A. Structure of the Association

1. Voluntary, non-governmental association of member schools. 2. Governance of the association includes representation of member schools. 3. The work of accreditation is conducted by volunteers from member institutions. 4. The accreditation of schools is organized/overseen by the central office of the association.

B. Concept of Accreditation

1. Accreditation is a system of quality assurance and school improvement based on compliance with standards of quality established by the association. 2. An underlying premise is that change/improvement is accomplished from within by engaging the school community in self-assessment and goal setting. 3. Accreditation is awarded to each school individually and independently and cannot be awarded in summary fashion to a school district or group of schools. 4. Accreditation is a continuous cycle of review and reflection for a school, focused on school improvement.

C. Underlying Assumptions

1. There is a diversity of approaches to education that are valid – no one model. 2. A clearly understood and collaboratively developed statement of mission/core values guides/directs the development of the individual school. 3. The professional staff best know the school: both possibilities and challenges. 4. Change is best/most likely accomplished by enlisting the full participation of the professional staff and support of other members of the school community in every phase of the process.

D. Standards

1. Standards developed by the association, with input from member schools, set the parameters for accreditation. 2. Schools must meet all standards (within a set time) to receive and maintain their accreditation. 3. Standards are comprehensive – they articulate principles of quality and integrity for all facets of the school. 4. Standards are interpreted in the context of the individual school's mission.

E. Self-Study

1. Self-study is the heart of the accreditation process in focusing the school on improvement. 2. The school community is organized in self-study to assess the school's status with regard to each of the standards. 3. The school community reflects on what it has learned in self-study and sets recommendations and goals for itself. 4. The self-study is designed to provide the context for the visiting committee and the school's accreditation.

F. Visiting Committee

1. A committee of peers (who serve as volunteers) is appointed by the association to make an extended site visit to the school. 2. The visiting committee is charged with validating the self-study, assessing compliance with standards, identifying commendable practices, and making recommendations for school improvement.

G. Data

1. Schools must gather data on student achievement and use this data to inform program improvement. 2. Data gathered for accreditation purposes is the property of the school; any compilation of data released by the association will be only in aggregate form that does not identify individual schools.

H. Other

1. All correspondence and reports generated in the accreditation process are the property of the school and will be released only with the school's authorization. 2. The accreditation protocol is cognizant of, but does not enforce government regulation. 3. The association has a procedure to receive and investigate complaints that a school is in violation of one or more standards. 4. The association provides training for schools in self-study and for volunteers on visiting committees. 5. The association monitors member schools annually between full visits, collecting statistical and demographic data and reports on substantive change. 6. The association provides an appeals process in the event a school disagrees with an accreditation decision.

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