Accreditation is an exciting time in the life of a school. It is a process that will lead us to better accountability and confidence as a school. It is an enormous amount of work for your teachers, and they should all be encouraged through the next year and a half as they give the school a gift of service and professionalism.
While accreditation is a somewhat common term in the education world, I know that many of you may be wondering what it is, and why we do it. It is important work in which we are asking our entire to community to invest. But why? Why is this so important to our school?
Right now, we are accredited through the largest Christian school agency worldwide as well as through a common secular accreditation organization here in the Northeast, Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. The school went through the full accreditation process back in 2003, so what we are doing now is seeking to keep our accredited status. Through this process, we will receive accreditation through MSACS as well as ACSI, the Association of Christian Schools International. ACSI, our primary contact, is an accrediting organization that also offers professional development opportunities, certification for Christian school teachers, and provides a community for Christian schools and educators.
Accreditation offers our schools several important benefits:
- Accountability: To go through the process successfully, we have to prove that we are who we say we are. We also have to show that we are growing as a school – not necessarily in numbers, but certainly in quality.
- Credibility: The stamp of accreditation is proof that we are a quality school program. There are many things that come under that heading – academics, athletics, the arts – but whatever we say we can do, accreditation is the start of our proof. Our alumni are offered more opportunities for having graduated from an accredited school. Scholarship organizations and colleges do not look at our school in detail to make sure that our graduates are what we say they are. They look at the transcripts, and assume that if we are accredited, an Algebra I class means Algebra I instruction happened in that classroom. You can know as parents that you are sending your children to a school that offers quality academics and programing that are in line with stringent standards and expectations.
- Transparency/Financial opportunity: Many grants are only awarded to accredited schools, and while the accreditation process itself is not an audit, we do have to document our fiscal responsibility and health.
- Clarity and Identity: Accreditation offers us the structure and the opportunity to define who we are as a school and as a community, and who we want to be. It forces us to look frankly at our weaknesses and address them. It also offers us the opportunity to get our strengths down on paper so that we can continue to push forward in those areas.
ACSI, our accrediting organization, provides for us a set of standards that defines a quality educational organization. We will go through each of those standards – piece by piece, and will evaluate our school program and provide documentation of compliance. This documentation will be provided through the school’s self-study. We will also initiate a school wide plan for improvement. When we have completed this intense work of going over our school program with a fine toothed comb, ACSI will send a visiting committee to our school (in the spring of 2015) to evaluate our program as compared to our self-study. That visiting committee will then recommend next steps to the accrediting organization. They will also provide for us a list of recommendations and commendations that we will be able to use for further growth.
We all need to be involved in school improvement, or it stays on the paper and never goes anywhere. This is important work, and we all need to be involved. So what is your role as parents? First of all, please support your teachers through this accreditation year. They will put in many extra hours, and will burn quite a few brain cells on this work. Their work and effort will make all the difference in this process. Secondly, I will be sending out a few surveys. There will be one large survey that comes to your email address this fall. Please take the time to respond. We desire to hear your perspective. It will make us better. The questions will range from school programing to the lunch program and anything in-between.
I am confident that the Lord has placed Timothy here to be a school that reflects His image to the community. I am looking forward to learning about the things that we do excellently – and then getting it down on paper so that we can repeat it. I am looking forward to knowing that we work in a place that is strong and true to our best ideals of Christian education. I am also thrilled that we get to define the ideal Christian school and then see if we can live up to it. Imagine how strong we will be in the end when we are standing on a foundation of accountability and credibility. And imagine how much we will be able to accomplish as a school when we are unified in our vision and purpose. This is such important work for the life of this school, and I am thrilled to be a part of it.