Introduction - Public School Accreditation
An introduction to Public School Accreditation
Public schools are under constant demand to improve. The primary goal of the NEASC public school accreditation process is to provide support and opportunities to develop realistic improvement and growth plans to enhance teaching and learning in order to maintain a quality education for the entire student population.
Accreditation of public schools by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges indicates that an educational institution has completed a community-wide self-assessment process and has hosted a visiting team of peer reviewers who evaluate the institution in terms of its own stated goals and the Standards for Accreditation of the NEASC Commission on Public Schools.
The Standards for Accreditation are a research-based set of practices and concepts reflective of best practices which provide a template for school communities and visiting teams to identify the unique strengths and needs of each school and center. Considered to be living documents, the Standards of Accreditation are reviewed and revised, as necessary, every five years. The Standards reflect current trends in research on public education without espousing one particular mode of thought. The award of Accreditation signifies that the school has met the Standards for Accreditation at an acceptable level and is committed to maintain those Standards.
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 accredited by NEASC, in order to maintain their NEASC Membership a school must demonstrate ongoing, reflective progress in support of teaching and learning, and periodically demonstrate continued alignment with NEASC Standards.
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Accreditation is the oldest and most traditional of the Standards-based systems of accountability. This methodology, which is centered on a dynamic of inquiry, involves a visiting team of peers generating knowledge about practices in the school and then drawing conclusions about how well they align with the Standards for Accreditation. The visiting team also identifies commendations and recommendations for what the school should do to improve. The results of that assessment are then made publicly available as an indication of the quality perceived and attested to by objective professional peer educators.
The attendant follow-up procedures are designed to ensure that all valid recommendations are acted upon in a timely fashion. The Commission expects that within five years the vast majority of the recommendations in the Accreditation Report will be completed or have a program/plan in place that will bring them to completion within a reasonable time. The Commission’s general expectation in evaluating all reports is that the school will continue to make “reasonable progress” toward meeting the recommendations. This process of self-reflection provides for continuous reassessment in light of both changing school and community needs and advances in pedagogy and school administration/organization.