Answers to commonly asked questions about NEASC and Accreditation
What is Accreditation?
NEASC Accreditation is a system of accountability that is ongoing, voluntary, and comprehensive in scope. It is based on a rigorous set of Standards which define the characteristics of high quality, effective learning communities and encompass all aspects of a school, center, or institution’s operation. In accordance with the independent, voluntary nature of accreditation, the Standards are developed and reviewed periodically by the NEASC Commissions and the membership in order to remain in alignment with current research, best practices, and pertinent governmental regulations (in the US and abroad). It does not compare or ranks schools, but rather respects differences in institutional populations, missions, and cultures, and fosters institutional growth grounded in the experience and expertise of practicing educators.
What does Accreditation guarantee?
Accreditation is an expression of confidence in the institution's purposes, performances, and human and financial resources. The goals are effectiveness, improvement and public assurance. Unlike popular magazines, this does not involve ranking institutions, but rather, establishes a level of acceptable quality for all accredited institutions while respecting the unique missions of the institutions involved.
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
How is Accreditation awarded?
Schools, centers, and colleges which voluntarily demonstrate through the NEASC’s assessment processes that they meet established Standards are Accredited, and thus become members of the Association.
Accreditation means that a school or college is fulfilling its publicly stated mission, meeting its objectives, demonstrating the effectiveness of its teaching and learning, and aligning to a set of common standards as established by the Commission and approved by the NEASC Board of Trustees. These Standards are determined by a process which collegially assures their acceptability by the member institutions. The mission of a given institution must relate to its organizational structure, program, faculty, students and facilities. The institution must demonstrate that the teaching and learning that occur as part of the institution’s educational program are effective. Resources must be adequate to carry out its mission. No attempt is made by NEASC to delineate relative excellence among institutions.
Member institutions must undertake a comprehensive period of self-reflection (also known as a Self-Study) which involves the participation of faculty, administrators, staff, students, board members, and representatives of the greater public community. A team of peer evaluators, comprised of professional educators who have volunteered and been trained to serve on an Accreditation Visiting Team, perform an on-site assessment of a school or center's adherence to an individual Commission’s stated Standards, review the findings of the school’s Self-Reflection, and make recommendations to assist with institutional growth and better alignment with the Standards.
Each Commission bases its recommendations or decisions on reports generated by its specially appointed Visiting Teams, which conduct on-site appraisals of schools, centers, colleges, and universities on the basis of established Commission Standards of Accreditation. The Standards are qualitative, sector specific and of such a nature that they are utilized to evaluate any of the various types of educational institutions served by the Commission.
Who makes decisions regarding Accredition?
Accreditation is not for a specific period of time but is a continuing relationship that is subject to periodic review. Institutions provide information to the NEASC Commissions annually and at other intervals depending on the circumstances. Comprehensive evaluations, including site visits by a team of peer evaluators, take place every five to ten years. The Commissions holdregular meetings annually to review institutional reports and reports generated by peer evaluation teams. The Standards guide all decisions.
The Visiting Teams
A committee of peers - comprised of trained, professional educators who have volunteered to serve on an Accreditation Visiting Team - conduct the on-site assessments of institutions. The reviews are informed by reports generated by and about the school through a rigorous self-reflection process and based on the Standards for Accreditation. Visiting Teams evaluate the schools alignment with the appropriate Commission Standards. The evaluation process includes observations of teaching and learning, reviewing the findings of the self-assessment, identifying areas of strength, and making recommendations specific to each school to assist them with better alignment with the Standards and future planning. This feedback serves as a roadmap for individualized and ongoing school growth and improvement for student learning.
The NEASC Commissioners
Commissioners, professional peers nominated from the educational community, approve the accreditation status of each member school based on reports and recommendations generated by the Accreditation 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. Commission members are nominated by member schools or may self-nominate.
Can an institution lose its Accreditation?
The grant of NEASC Accreditation is not a permanent status; it may be withdrawn. Accreditation is a grant made initially by the Association’s Board of Trustees and reaffirmed periodically by the appropriate Commission through its own Standards of Accreditation, policies, and procedures. Membership in the Association is dependent upon an institution’s ability to remain in substantial alignment with its Commission’s Standards and by demonstrating continued capacity for self-improvement.
Member institutions are reappraised on a cycle managed by each Commission and are expected to design a process to implement recommendations resulting from those evaluations or subsequent special progress reviews and/or focused visits. If appropriate action is not taken to respond to those recommendations within the amount of time required by its Commission, a member institution will be placed on warning or probation for a reasonable but limited period. Unless corrective measures are taken during this second interval, the institution's membership may be ended.
Probation and loss of accreditation are public adverse actions. Opportunity is provided for appeal of any adverse action against an institution.
Does NEASC accreditation include online programs and branch campuses?
Yes. NEASC is an institutional accreditor, so it accredits the institution as a whole, including all programs at all 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. Although NEASC is accrediting a wider range of schools than during its early years, 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. The NEASC Commission on Independent Schools 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-8 accreditation process of the Commission on Public Schools Committee on Public Elementary and Middle Schools. 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.
Does NEASC rank or compare schools?
No. It is impossible to rank schools as diverse as those in our membership. 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. Individual schools will provide information concerning the characteristics of their learning communities and each family or student must determine whether a school meets their needs.