Frequently asked questions about NEASC Accreditation
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What is Accreditation?
Grounded in the experience and expertise of practicing educators since 1885, NEASC Accreditation is a respected, effective, and time-tested methodology for school improvement and growth. It is not a single event, but rather an ongoing, voluntary cycle of comprehensive internal and external assessments, short- and long-term strategic planning, and periodic reporting sustained by professional partnership and support. It is intended to serve as a framework for schools to meet their own unique goals for student learning while maintaining alignment with research-based Standards for Accreditation that define the characteristics of high quality, effective learning communities. It also serves to assess the systems in place for ongoing institutional self-reflection and a school’s commitment to and capacity for continuous growth and/or transformation.
How does Accreditation work?
A school interested in accreditation begins by applying for candidacy and must demonstrate that it has the basic structures, policies, and systems in place to support a quality learning environment. Once a school has been recognized as a NEASC Candidate for Accreditation, the cycle commences. The nature and timing of reviews and other assessment tools provided by the NEASC Commissions may vary, but all have at their core a rigorous and comprehensive self-reflection process followed by an on-site evaluation conducted by a team of trained peers from the educational community, follow-up reporting*, strategic planning, implementation, and ongoing personalized support.
*Because each school is reviewed based upon its unique characteristics and applications of the NEASC Standards, no two peer review reports will be alike.
Is NEASC Accreditation a “one size fits all” process?
NEASC does not espouse a “cookie cutter” model for accreditation. NEASC respects the unique culture of each school and encourages them to develop a mission statement which is reflective of the values and beliefs of that particular learning community. NEASC wants schools to develop goals to meet the needs of the students within their buildings.
What are the Standards for Accreditation?
The Standards for Accreditation are a research-based, rigorous, and holistic set of practices and concepts reflective of educational best practices that:
- ensure the structures, policies, and systems are in place to support a high quality, effective learning community
- provide a foundation and framework for school communities and accreditation teams to identify the unique strengths and needs of each institution
- are developed by each of the NEASC Commissions to address the distinct needs of the schools served — whether public, independent, or international
- invite schools to define the transferable skills, knowledge, values, and dispositions necessary for future student success
- challenge schools to focus more on impactful, personalized learning
NEASC conducts periodic reviews of its Standards and protocols to stay aligned with current educational research, best practice, and governmental regulations, and to remain responsive to member needs.
What are "Visiting Teams"?
Each year volunteers contribute 250,000+ combined hours of their time to conduct professional peer reviews — the heart of NEASC Accreditation. Trained volunteers from the educational community work together as a team to visit each school undergoing an accreditation review to conduct on-site, objective assessments.
These "Visiting Teams" evaluate a school's alignment with the appropriate NEASC Commission Standards. This process includes:
- conducting observations of teaching and learning
- interviewing students, parents, faculty, administration and the wider school community
- reviewing reports generated by and about the school
- validating the school's self-reflection/internal-assessment
- identifying strengths and recommendations specific to each school
- submitting reports, commendations, and recommendations to the appropriate commission for final evaluation
How is NEASC Accreditation awarded?
Educational institutions which voluntarily demonstrate through the NEASC’s assessment processes that they are aligned with established Standards are Accredited, and thus become members of the Association.
Accreditation is not a single event, but rather an ongoing, voluntary cycle of comprehensive internal and external assessments, short- and long-term strategic planning, and periodic reporting sustained by professional partnership and support. Member schools must, according to the appropriate Commission protocol, periodically demonstrate continued alignment with NEASC Standards in order to maintain their NEASC Accreditation/Membership.
Are there different kinds of accreditation?
There are two main types of educational accreditation: institutional and specialized (or programmatic).
- Institutional accreditation evaluates a school wholistically, applying the standards in light of the institution’s mission and stated goals. Besides assessing educational programs, it evaluates areas such as governance and administration, financial stability, physical resources, technology, admissions, and student services. Institutional accreditation encompasses the entire institution.
- Specialized or programmatic accreditation evaluate particular programs within an institution. Specialized accreditation is often associated with national professional associations such as those for engineering, medicine, and law, or with specific disciplines such as business, teacher education, international education, and nursing.
Accreditation is provided by regional and national associations. Regional associations, like NEASC, are independent of one another, but they cooperate extensively and acknowledge one another’s accreditation. Several national associations focus on particular kinds of institutions (for example, technical or religious colleges). Accrediting agencies may provide both institutional and programmatic services, allowing institutions to pursue more than one type of accreditation in order to strengthen assurance to students and the public of the quality of education they offer.
Can an institution lose its Accreditation?
The status of NEASC Accreditation is ongoing and subject to periodic review. It is not granted for a specific period of time, nor is it a based on a single event — and it may be withdrawn. A school's membership in the Association is dependent upon its ability to periodically demonstrate continued alignment with the NEASC Standards and continued capacity for self-improvement.
Member institutions are reappraised on a cycle managed by each Commission. An institution found to be out of alignment with NEASC Standards is normally provided with additional assistance and time to take corrective action. If the school is not responsive, an adverse action may follow (i.e, denial of candidacy, termination of candidacy, denial of accreditation, placement on probation, termination of accreditation). Opportunity is provided for appeal of any adverse action against an institution. Please see the NEASC policies for more details.
Who makes decisions regarding NEASC Accreditation?
Volunteers recruited from and nominated by the professional educational community are at the core of the inclusive, collaborative process of Accreditation.
The Visiting Teams
Trained volunteers from the educational community work together as a team to visit each school undergoing an accreditation review to conduct on-site, objective assessments and evaluate a school's alignment with the appropriate commission standards. The teams support the determination of accreditation status by submitting reports to the appropriate NEASC Commission for final evaluation. Reports typically summarize observations, validate the school's self-assessment, and identify strengths and recommendations specific to each school.
The NEASC Commissioners
Commissioners — professionals selected to represent NEASC's diverse membership — meet regularly throughout the year to review accreditation reports submitted by and about member schools, and to determine the accreditation status of each member school based on the commendations and recommendations generated by the Visiting Teams. In addition, Commissioners provide information to the NEASC Board of Trustees concerning candidacy, initial or continued accreditation, or removal from accreditation for each school undergoing Accreditation review. Along with the Board of Trustees, each of the three Commissions is dedicated to the accomplishment of the mission, assurance, and goals of the Association.
Does NEASC rank or compare schools?
No. NEASC acknowledges and respects the unique populations, missions, and cultures of our membership and therefore does not compare or rank schools. Schools are evaluated by how well they fulfill their unique missions, the kinds of programs offered, the culture that is nurtured, and the qualities that will help students succeed. NEASC establishes rigorous standards of quality for all accredited institutions and supports schools wherever they may be on the continuum of improvement and/or transformation.
What does NEASC Accreditation guarantee?
NEASC Accreditation is a statement of confidence in the institution's purposes, performances, and resources.
NEASC Accreditation attests to
- substantial compliance with established qualitative standards
- integrity in statements to the public describing the institution's program
- institutional commitment to improvement
- sufficiency of institutional resources
NEASC Accreditation does not
- guarantee the experience of individual students
- guarantee the quality of specific programs
- compare or rank institutions
Do Virtual Learning options at my school affect NEASC Accreditation?
Virtual Learning and NEASC Accreditation
The New England Association of Schools and Colleges supports its member schools with the many changes and innovations being developed to meet the needs of 21st century learners. The frequently asked questions (FAQs) below have been developed to help clarify possible implications of these innovations on your school’s accreditation. If you have any questions about how your use of virtual learning or other substantive changes will be viewed with respect to accreditation, please contact your commission liaison at NEASC [view staff directory].
- What if teaching and learning at my school is temporarily being conducted virtually for some or all of our students in response to the coronavirus pandemic?
This has no effect on your accreditation status, which, through your ongoing growth in aligning with NEASC Standards validates your commitment and capacity to effectively adapt curriculum and services to meet student needs. We support your efforts to provide continuity of learning and support for your students and staff during the ongoing pandemic.
- What if students at my school take approved supplemental virtual classes (conducted by an outside provider) in addition to our in-person teaching and learning?
Not to worry. This is covered under your existing accreditation and will be reviewed as a part of your typical accreditation visits and follow-ups.
- What if my school established a new element (such as a virtual branch campus or program) that allows students (including those outside of our geographic region) to enroll in our school from a distance?
This change may be considered a “substantive change,” requiring a substantive change report or an application for an “additional campus/element” for your accreditation. This would not include schools that have temporarily pivoted to virtual learning for students due to the coronavirus pandemic.
- What if my school has begun offering individual virtual courses or programs (not resulting in a diploma) to students beyond our current student body?
Please remember that NEASC does not accredit individual courses but rather the school as a whole. Schools should not represent courses they offer virtually as being accredited by NEASC.
Please contact us if you have any other questions or need additional clarification.
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Can an online school obtain NEASC accreditation?
Yes. As educational models have shifted, NEASC has adjusted to meet the accreditation needs of online schools. Online schools follow the ACE Learning pathway for NEASC accreditation, a framework that is well suited to the innovative world of online learning. Online schools must meet the same Foundation Standards as brick-and-mortar schools, but in a contextually appropriate way.
NEASC considers applications from online schools who:
- have been fully operational for at least two full years
- offer a full-time educational experience to students via an online experience
- function as a learning community where relationships between stakeholders are strong
- are able to benefit from the NEASC accreditation process including a rigorous Internal Reflection process
- are legally authorized to operate as an online school in the headquarters location
- offer an English-Medium curriculum that is publicly accessible for students from a variety of countries
If your online school is interested in NEASC accreditation, the first step is to set up a call to discuss the school’s eligibility to apply. Contact email@example.com.
Does NEASC Accreditation include online programs and branch campuses?
Yes. NEASC is an institutional accreditor, so it accredits the institution as a whole, including programs at branch locations, as well as those offered online.
Does NEASC Accredit Early Childhood programs?
No, NEASC does not accredit programs serving students below the age of three; the focus of the NEASC Accreditation process is on the experience of students in preschool and older.
Some independent schools — accredited through the NEASC Commission on Independent Schools — which serve infants and/or toddlers have received joint accreditation with the American Montessori Society (AMS), have sought additional accreditation through the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), or are licensed by the State. All of these options provide quality assurances for early childhood programs. We recognize that the governance and infrastructure of a school support all students regardless of age, and the school culture and climate facilitate the growth of all students regardless of age. We also acknowledge that there are programmatic and health and safety considerations which are best overseen by either AMS, NAEYC, and/or State Early Childhood Departments. NEASC requires schools which serve children below the age of three to demonstrate compliance with state standards and state mandates for early childhood programs, and encourages these schools to additionally work with an agency which specifically focuses on early childhood programs.
In addition, NEASC interacts with pre-schools and pre-school programs through the K-12 accreditation process of the NEASC Committee on Public Elementary, Middle, and High Schools (CPEMHS). Pre-schools’ faculties are encouraged to participate in the school accreditation process using the Standards as a guide. In this manner, pre-school programs in and of themselves are not accredited, but the school which houses the pre-school is permitted to extend the range of its accreditation to Pre-K. For example: a K-5 school that wishes its pre-school program to be included in the accreditation process will be accredited PreK-5. Pre-school programs, up to this point, have not been treated as stand-alone units.
Is NEASC a part of the US Department of Education?
No. NEASC is a private, non-profit, non-governmental organization that is funded and supported by its membership. In the best interest of its membership, NEASC has no legal or business ties to the government.
However, NEASC and its Commissions are recognized as approved accreditation agencies by the National Association of Independent Schools and the United States Department of Education. The US Department of State's Office of Overseas Schools has officially recognized NEASC International's accreditation and support work with American and international schools abroad. “Recognition” demonstrates that NEASC has undergone external reviews and affirms that processes and outcomes are in place to support the best interests of students, educators, and the public.
What is the difference between accreditation and government licensure?
Accreditation is voluntary. It represents an institution’s willingness to abide by established Standards for Accreditation and to open itself regularly to examination by outside evaluators familiar with education. As such, accreditation is a recognized and highly regarded symbol of quality and accountability to the public.
In order to protect students and the public, many countries around the world have established government regulations that must be met before an educational institution may operate. Institutions in these areas need government approval to operate legally, which may include licensure. Accreditation may or may not be a condition of licensure; requirements vary by country and state.
Can an institution in the US be accredited by the government?
No. In the US, accreditation is a voluntary process facilitated by non-governmental agencies. Both the federal and state governments recognize accreditation as the mechanism by which institutional and programmatic legitimacy are ensured. In international terms, accreditation by a recognized accrediting authority is accepted as the US equivalent of other countries' ministerial recognition of institutions belonging to national education systems.
Read more online at the US Department of Education
Is NEASC itself evaluated?
Yes. NEASC is committed to ensuring that its policies and practices at state, regional, and international levels are fair, impartial, and free of conflicts. As such, NEASC voluntarily undergoes periodic reviews by professional associations which conduct rigorous evaluations of its programs. For example, NEASC is recognized by the International Council Advancing Independent School Accreditation (ICAISA), a national professional association which commends and confirms confidence in the quality of recognized member associations’ school accreditation programs. As a member of ICAISA, NEASC is committed to developing and maintaining a set of Criteria for Effective Independent School Accreditation. The process also challenges ICAISA members to reflect on the changing educational landscape and to improve accreditation practices to support the permanence and strength of schools they serve.