for Students and Families
Students are most affected by Accreditation since they are the central focus of the educational process. Accreditation assures them that their needs are being met through a quality educational program, that a vehicle exists to correct deficiencies in the school program, that their transfer credits will more likely be accepted should their family move, and that college representatives have the assurance of the quality of their preparation. Their confidence in their school and teachers, their attitude toward academic work, and their personal development are all fostered by seeing their school invite, and respond to, constructive criticism. Alignment to the Standards also ensures the singular focus of school resources on students’ achievement of valued learning expectations that address academic, civic, and social competencies articulated in the school’s public statement of core values, beliefs about learning, and vision of the graduate.
for Local Citizens and Taxpayers
Accreditation of a local public school by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges assures that tax money is supporting a school facility and programs that have been judged worthwhile by a visiting team of evaluators, both in terms of the school’s stated core values, beliefs about learning, and vision of the graduate, and in terms of the school’s alignment to the Standards for Accreditation. Through the process of Accreditation, the citizen is advised of the strengths, needs, and long-range plans of the school. Finally, the reputation of the community benefits from Accreditation since the retention or the loss of Accreditation has a demonstrable effect on local property values. It is quite common for principals of member schools to receive inquiries from potential homebuyers or renters in a given community seeking information about the nature and quality of programs in that community’s schools. In addition to requests for information about the breadth of curricular and co-curricular programs, and about standardized and state test results, those inquiries often include specific questions about a school’s Accreditation status.
for School Board Members
School board members are ultimately responsible for the quality of public education in their community. Accreditation assures the citizens that the board’s educational policies and plans related to accredited schools are sound.
The self-reflection phase of the Accreditation process also provides an ideal opportunity for an individual board member to gain a comprehensive knowledge of the school as it undergoes the process of evaluation and Accreditation. If changes are needed, the Accreditation process highlights them.
The Accreditation process also provides the school a process that involves the entire school community in an introspective analysis of the nature and quality of school programs. The Standards for Accreditation and the self-reflection process encourage the inquiry and analysis that all organizations must embrace to be able to maintain their vibrancy and efficacy.
for Building Administrators and Teachers
The school’s administration and teachers enjoy the professional pride of working in an accredited institution. Accreditation provides both a personal and professional opportunity to work in a collegial, reflective manner toward educational improvement. The Accreditation experience affords the opportunity for the administration and faculty to conduct and to receive a rigorous analysis of present conditions with a specific emphasis on teaching and learning and the support of teaching and learning so that needed changes may be carefully planned and implemented following a reasonable timeline. Not only do individuals develop a new perspective on their own positions, but also a holistic view of the institution which affords a better understanding of their role in the operation of the school. The Accreditation process affirms the efforts of teachers and administrators by virtue of their having voluntarily subjected their professional endeavors to review and judgment by a team of their peers, using the demanding Accreditation Standards to measure the quality of those endeavors.
Results of a NEASC survey involving schools that hosted a visiting team provided positive and thoughtful responses. Cited among the most significant findings related to the impact of Accreditation on the quality of a school’s educational program were: improved instruction; enhanced teamwork and collegiality; increased focus on current research and best practice; improved organization effectiveness and long-range planning; expanded professional development programs; and increased involvement of parents and community members in the school, including their support for school initiatives. Included among narrative findings from the respondents on the benefits of the Accreditation process were: the positive impact of the Standards for Accreditation in transitioning a school to a standards-based, student-centered educational program; the stimulation of professional dialogue engendering positive change; the commitment to increased levels of academic challenge and improved student achievement; and the provision of a system of continuity that promotes educational quality among member schools.
for System Administrators
The Standards for Accreditation provide a template for school review and improvement that can be combined with local, state, and federal initiatives focused both on compliance with mandates and on restructuring efforts. The Standards themselves are reflective of best practices. Although strongly based on core concepts of accountability, equity, collaboration, personalization, and student engagement, the Standards provide latitude for individual schools to design programs and services specific to the needs of their stakeholders.
The Standards provide a template that is adaptable to local use. They provide for a cyclical review of all aspects of school programs and mandate both consistency with the school district mission and coordination of curriculum with other district schools. The Accreditation process provides a rich opportunity to integrate system programs and processes during the self-reflection phase of the decennial cycle, assess their effectiveness as part of the on-site Accreditation visits, and continue to effect changes throughout the follow-up phase of the cycle.