The Tenney School is about to go through our five year re-accreditation visit. Accreditation is such an unusual word. This article is intended to demystify the process for our readers.
Accreditation is an official recognition that a school is credible–that is, that the school maintains educational standards well enough that other accredited schools will recognize the professed level of education claimed by its students and faculty. The goal of the accreditation system is to ensure that education provided by schools meets acceptable levels of quality. The accreditation system was developed to maintain a level playing field of quality education, so that students could switch schools as seamlessly as possible, and so that educational and industrial organizations would recognize the level of education indicated on a transcript as an indication of real value.
Accreditation is a process that many schools, colleges and universities wanting government support, as well as recognition by industry and the public, regularly undergo. Accredited schools are then held to strict standards which must be maintained with each accreditation renewal.
There are two kinds of accreditation, institutional accreditation and specialized or program specialization. Accreditation organizations look at the school as a whole to grant institutional accreditation, and look at individual programs and departments to grant each accreditation separately.
Who does the accreditation?
School accreditation is a patchwork of quality control measures, a system subject to the needs of individual schools and an uneven system of laws. Public schools are increasingly evaluated by performance tests that many feel can replace the accreditation system as a final measure of performance. Private schools tend to value their individual differences and more often do not assess student performance school-wide by tests.
Independent schools are accredited by private accrediting membership organizations such as the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). The accreditation process for independent schools has to take into account basic differences between independent and public schools.
By nature, independent schools are self-supporting and not dependent of tax-support. Independent schools may have curricula that differ from school to school in recognition to the needs of their unique student populations. Independent school do recognize that their autonomy and self-sufficiency may be a source of weakness. The danger is that they may become self-satisfied and they may begin to operate in isolation. Market pressure may be the only influence that can push independent schools to assess themselves objectively and make necessary changes. Ultimately, it is essential that independent school maintain standards that match their educational quality to all school, public or private.
In recognition of the need for a kind of educational quality control, associations of independent schools have emerged in every region of the United States. These associations have set standards that schools have to meet to gain membership. Many associations have established procedures for accrediting their member schools and hold them accountable.
Public school accreditation is governed by state laws and may be performed through an office within the state’s department of education or by one of six regional accreditation organizations. AdvanceED is a non-profit, non-government educational organization that provided accreditation services for about half of the regions of the country.
Schools are not necessarily required to seek accreditation. About 20 states do their own accreditation and, among those, some make participation voluntary. Other states do require schools to seek accreditation services. In some states, like California and Florida, students who graduate from unaccredited schools may have a harder time getting into public colleges and universities. Other states don’t require accreditation but build in powerful incentives like scholarship programs for schools that do. Schools can lose their state accreditation but then get accredited by a private sector accrediting organization.
What is the accreditation process like?
The process of accreditation involves a brief school inspection to assess the level of conformity to set accreditation standards.
- Interested schools fill out a formal request for accreditation from one of the accreditation bodies and pay an application fee. The application must be completed about 3 months before a school visit is scheduled. Visits are scheduled only during the second semester of operation for new schools.
- After approval, the accreditation organization schedules a preliminary one-day or two-day visit by a small committee. The committee prepares a report back to the accreditation body, including recommendations about how the school can improve.
- If the committee’s report is favorable, the school will receive a notification of “initial accreditation” or “candidacy” depending on how well the school meets the accreditation standards.
The Tenney School is a small private school in Houston, Texas promoting one-to-one learning. We believe that students who are scheduled for healthy amounts of time one-to-one with their teachers will fully achieve their academic potential. The Tenney School has been accredited since 1979. Please contact us to learn more.