The Association of Colorado Independent Schools accredits, supports, and promotes independent schools in Colorado in a way that respects each school's mission and fosters excellence in teaching and learning.


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.

Membership Profile

ACIS includes thirty-eight schools with a total of over 11,290 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 bookkeeping, conference planning/registration, web site management, and general office assistance. Christine has over 30 years’ experience in operations/office management, public relations and crisis management.

ACIS QUICK FACTS (2019-2020)

Number of Member Schools 38
Accredited Members    33
Candidacy Members (working toward accreditation)      5
Day Schools     33
Boarding Schools     2
Boarding/Day Schools  3

Total Student Enrollment 11,209
% students of color 19.1%
Financial Aid/Scholarships
Total Financial aid (excluding tuition remission) $31,780,806
% students receiving aid 25.8%