ACIS accreditation is recognized by the State of Colorado, Colorado Shines, and the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). As a member in good standing of the International Council Advancing Independent School Accreditation (ICAISA), ACIS conforms to the ICAISA Commission’s Criteria for Effective Independent School Accreditation Practices. Every ten years, ICAISA routinely conducts a thorough review of each member’s accreditation program to ensure that it meets or exceeds those standards. ACIS was last reviewed in 2018.
Member schools in ACIS make a commitment to continual school improvement when they join the association. A ten-year evaluation cycle holds them accountable for complying with the association’s high accreditation standards. The evaluation cycle begins with a rigorous self-study process in which the school community conducts an honest and comprehensive analysis of its strengths and challenges in every area of the school.
In year two of the cycle, ACIS appoints an evaluation team that spends four days on campus to conduct interviews and classroom observations, review documents, and develop its own assessment of the school’s strengths and challenges in response to the school community’s self-evaluation. During the school visit, the team evaluates the school’s compliance with government regulations and the NAIS Principles of Good Practice. The team gives special attention to evaluating compliance with ACIS standards, particularly the congruency between the school’s mission and educational program. That comprehensive evaluation includes: the educational program, board governance, financial management, facilities, child protection and safety, and all other aspects of school administration.
The ACIS Board makes the final determination about a school’s accreditation or re-accreditation, based on a careful assessment of the visiting team report. In subsequent years, the school community must address any recommendations for improvement that resulted from the evaluation visit and/or any significant changes that might arise.
Every ten years the process starts over again to ensure that ACIS schools are continually updating their programs and working to improve service to students and families. ACIS accreditation provides a reasonable assurance of quality regarding the education and learning experience provided by member schools.
Why does Accreditation Matter?
Colorado has few regulations for non-public schools at the K-12 level. No license or accreditation is required to operate such a school. With minimal governmental oversight, school accreditation offers one of the best ways for parents to differentiate among the variety of non-public schools in their area. Many parents limit their school search to those which have demonstrated sufficient quality and stability to earn accreditation.
An Example of the Importance of Accreditation
Here are seven reasons why accreditation matters:
1) High Standards
ACIS schools follow a common set of rigorous standards that reflect the proven characteristics of good independent schools. Those standards are based on Principles of Good Practice of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). For detailed information see: https://www.nais.org/learn/principles-of-good-practice/.
2) Mission-Program Congruence
Accreditation by ACIS offers reasonable assurance that an independent school provides the character and quality of education claimed in its marketing materials.
3) Third-Party Accountability
The rigorous accreditation process of ACIS requires meaningful and comprehensive evaluation of the school by outside experts who validate strengths and hold school leaders accountable for addressing weaknesses. Periodic evaluation of the ACIS accreditation program by the International Council Advancing Independent School Accreditation (www.icaisa.org) supports continuous improvement by holding ACIS accountable for compliance with the ICAISA Criteria for Effective Independent School Accreditation Practices.
4) School Viability
ACIS accreditation offers reasonable assurance that a school is financially viable, with effective leadership to maintain long-term stability. That is important, because problems with governance or finance are the most common reasons for independent school failure.
5) Continuous Improvement
To maintain ACIS accreditation, school leaders must demonstrate an ongoing commitment to school improvement. Evidence of that commitment includes: ongoing curriculum development and teacher education, effective two-way communication with school families, and the use of learning assessments to guide program improvements.
6) College Admissions
For students at the high school level, school accreditation facilitates acceptance into college. Students from accredited schools often receive priority consideration, while those from unaccredited schools must provide special evidence to demonstrate their readiness for higher education.
7) Legal Compliance
Accreditation provides reasonable assurance that a school meets or exceeds relevant government regulations involving: health, fire, safety, sanitation, and other requirements.