ISACS offers a comprehensive approach to accreditation based on a seven-year cycle and three, overall principles:
- Compliance with the ISACS standards for membership;
- Full and complete disclosure of a school’s mission, philosophy, program, qualifications of its professional staff, procedures, and services, and congruence between the school’s stated mission and its actual program and services; and
- Completion of the ISACS school improvement process, including self-study and external review of strengths, challenges and plans and priorities in all areas of the school.
These principles characterize all our accredited schools and still allow for great diversity in mission, philosophy, program, and style.
While accreditation (or some other form of approval, recognition, or licensing) can be obtained from several other organizations, including state and the five regional accrediting bodies for colleges and schools, independent schools often find the following specific advantages in the ISACS accreditation program:
- The process involves a peer review, conducted by those who understand and appreciate independent school qualities and contributions to American education, including faculty as well as administrators;
- The standards and procedures have been developed for independent, not public schools;
- Wherever possible, standards are directed toward quality of school product or outcomes rather than typical "input" factors (such as teacher certification, number of books in the library, etc.);
- School improvement, while informed by data, is not driven by test scores but is pursued as a comprehensive process involving all aspects of human growth and learning;
- The process provides flexibility for unique situations and needs. Schools are required to plan a self-study process, within certain guidelines, that will most help the school in its own search for excellence;
- In both philosophy and practice, the focus of the ISACS accreditation program is on the development and nurture of excellence rather than certification. The principal objectives are to provide a stimulus for excellence, help the school assess its strengths and weaknesses, and help the school confirm the validity of its priorities and planning for improvement.
While the United States Department of Education can only recognize accrediting bodies for higher and adult education, ISACS accreditation is recognized by the U.S. Government for such purposes as certification by the Immigration and Naturalization Service for foreign students and access to military academies and programs. Most of the states in which member schools are located recognize ISACS accreditation, and some accept it in lieu of their own approval process. Universities and colleges throughout the country recognize ISACS accreditation, and ISACS is recognized by the College Board as an accrediting body for secondary schools located in this region.
The ISACS accreditation program has national recognition through an umbrella review process developed in 1989 by the National Association of Independent Schools
(NAIS) and other independent school associations. The umbrella review process is similar to that used by the U. S. Department of Education in reviewing accrediting bodies for higher and adult education; it involves a detailed petition (self-study) and on-site visits by the NAIS Commission on Accreditation to two ISACS school accreditation visits and to a meeting of the ISACS Evaluation Review Committee
. ISACS was the first of the independent school association accrediting bodies to complete the review process successfully; it received its NAIS recognition in June 1990. Its latest renewal came in September 2009.
Cycle of Accreditation
Prepare for an intensive self-study:
- Revise, review, approve statements of mission and philosophy
- Update curriculum guides or maps
- Conduct constituent survey, preferably using ISACS document
- Update strategic plan
- Develop profile of graduates
Conduct comprehensive self-examination using ISACS Self-Study Guide.
Conduct a certified, full-opinion, financial audit.
Host an ISACS accreditation visiting team chaired by an ISACS head of school trained in the ISACS accreditation process.
Prepare and submit a Reaction Report and Plan for School Improvement to the ISACS Evaluation Review Committee.
Complete a certified, full-opinion, financial audit.
Prepare and submit a 3-Year Progress Report to the ISACS Evaluation Review Committee. (In certain emergency or other extenuating circumstances, schools may petition to extend accreditation for three more years. See the ISACS Accreditation Guide
Unless specified by ISACS, no additional reports required in this year.
For more information on the Cycle of Accreditation, visit the Accreditation Guide
Visiting teams are composed of faculty and administrators from ISACS accredited member schools. Team members are recommended by their head of school for such service, based upon skills and knowledge, interest, and writing ability. Then, depending upon the needs of each individual team, members are invited to serve by ISACS from a database pool of about 2500 volunteers. Service is voluntary and done with the understanding that by helping another school in the accreditation process, such service will be reciprocated when the time comes for one’s own school to be accredited.
In this section one can find more specific information about what is involved in serving on a visiting team.
For members of ISACS schools who will serve on an ISACS Visiting Team for the first time or for those who want to know what it’s all about, download the webinar "Serving on an ISACS Visiting Team
VISITING TEAM LEADER RESOURCES
-Accreditation Recommendation Letter
-ISACS Standards For Membership
-Report Cover Sheet
-Sample Major Recommendations
-School Profile Form
-Report Section Template
VISITING TEAM MEMBER RESOURCES
-A Guide to Serving on a Visiting Team
-Useful Action Verbs
The Evaluation Review Committee is a standing committee appointed by the ISACS President and Director of Accreditation Services. It consists of school heads and other administrators that have had extensive experience with accreditation; most will be experienced accreditation team leaders. Members of the Evaluation Review Committee generally serve for at least two 3-year terms.
It is the purpose of the Evaluation Review Committee to review all accreditation program procedures periodically and, more specifically, to review all accreditation reports (visiting team, reaction, progress and provisional reports) on behalf of the board of trustees. The Evaluation Review Committee may accept or modify the recommendation for accreditation submitted by the visiting team, and reports this to the board of trustees. In the case of an adverse recommendation (for accreditation), the school will be notified, and will be given an opportunity to appeal if it chooses, before final action by the board.
Committee Members 2010-2011
Alice Munninghoff, Chair
Notre Dame de Sion, MO
Avery Coonley School, IL email@example.comBeth Beckmann
University Liggett School, MI firstname.lastname@example.orgClayton Chambliss
Sayre School, KY email@example.com
Quest Academy, IL
New School, OH
Greenhills School, MI firstname.lastname@example.org
Community School, MO
ISACS, ex email@example.com
Mary Institute & St. Louis Country Day School, MO firstname.lastname@example.org
Convent of the Visitation School, MN email@example.comKevin Rooney
ISACS, ex firstname.lastname@example.org
ISACS, ex email@example.com
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The following list of Standards of Membership has been developed, and reviewed periodically, to describe the kind of school that ISACS believes it can serve and that, in turn, that can benefit from the ISACS network and services. ISACS does not suggest that the only good schools are those that meet its standards. ISACS does hold that its standards describe the type of school represented in its membership. Accreditation by ISACS is assurance to the public that these standards have been met, and that the school's success in meeting these standards is periodically reviewed.
Because of the diversity in the ISACS membership and the corresponding variation in philosophy, program, procedures, and style, these standards have been developed to focus on the elements that should be common to all good independent schools. The approval of a school, however, for membership or accreditation shall not be contingent upon literal compliance with every detail of the standards. Wherever the provisions of a particular standard are waived, however, there shall be sufficient evidence that the intent of those provisions is being observed.
Of paramount importance are those standards listed in Section A, ISACS Policies and Practices, because they are either essential to the definition of an independent school or they represent fundamental tenets observed by all independent schools. Among these tenets is the commitment to the highest possible quality in a school's program and both the learning and teaching integral to it. Of equivalent importance is the recognition of, and respect for, diversity and pluralism. As the American pluralistic tradition accommodates schools that emphasize and responsibly develop their own distinctive religious understanding so does ISACS, as manifested in the historic and continuing reality that about one fifth of ISACS member schools have a specific religious affiliation. It is also believed that the test of a school's quality is the measure of how well the school does what it purports, represented by the degree of congruence between the school's mission and program, as well as between its purposes and results. Finally, a school's ability to truly seek improvements while undergoing its self-study and external review is a basic test of its quality.Standards for Membership
For Provisional Member Schools
This report is due annually on or before September 15
for schools with a provisional membership status.
For Schools in Year 4
This report is due September 15
following the prior year's FALL accreditation visit OR March 15
following the prior year's WINTER or SPRING accreditation visit.
For Schools in Year 6
This report is due May 1
three years following the accreditation visit.
For Visiting Teams
See the Visiting Teams page for more information on serving on an ISACS Visiting Team.
For the Constituent Survey
See the Constituent Survey page for more information on the ISACS survey.