ACIS accredits, supports, and advances the interests of Colorado independent schools.
The Association of Colorado Independent Schools was established in 1957 and joined the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) in 1963. Member schools were first accredited by the State of Colorado from 1963 to 1978. From 1978 to 1991 ACIS accredited schools in partnership with the Colorado Department of Education when it began phasing out its private school accreditation program. In 1991 Colorado gave full recognition and authority to ACIS as a separate accrediting agency. ACIS is a formally recognized accrediting agency by the International Council for Advancing Independent School Accreditation (ICAISA). From its founding ACIS has provided collegial support and professional development to help sustain effective leadership in member schools. Since 1989 that program has included the Annual Leadership Conference offered each fall. ACIS celebrated its 60th anniversary in fall 2017.
ACIS includes thirty-eight schools with a total of over 11,174 students. Members reflect a wide variety of school missions: boarding and day schools, progressive and traditional programs, Montessori and Waldorf schools. They are also geographically diverse, with over half the schools (20) located in Denver or the immediate vicinity, eight in mountain communities or on the Western Slope, and ten members in the Front Range cities of Boulder, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo.
Alan Smiley serves as the ACIS Executive Director, with primary responsibility for coordinating ACIS work on accreditations, professional development, and advocacy. Prior to his leadership of ACIS, he spent thirteen years as an independent school head and has over two decades’ additional experience in other capacities (division head, department chair, assistant division head, middle and high school English teacher, coach and advisor) at multiple independent schools in Colorado and around the country.
Christine Zandstra is the Executive Assistant for ACIS. Her primary responsibilities include accounting, finance, conference planning/registration, website management, and general office assistance. Christine has over 30 years’ experience in operations/office management, public relations and crisis management.
Oakes Hunnewell is the Director of Professional Development and Corporate Sponsorship for ACIS. His primary responsibilities include coordinating professional development activities and events and sponsor relations. Oakes has over 20 years of experience as an educator, coach, and educational consultant.
ACIS QUICK FACTS (2021-2022)
|Number of Member Schools||38|
|Candidacy Members (working toward accreditation)||6|
|Boarding/Day Schools|| 3
|Total Student Enrollment||11,174|
|% students of color||21.1%|
|Median % of Students on Financial Aid||21.1%|
|Median Financial Aid Grant per student||$16,464|