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Accreditation: Why it Matters

Why is the accreditation process so important? One head of school offers several reasons to his school community.

Can you think of a good way to holistically assess the effectiveness of your organization? Would you create a way to collect meaningful feedback from your customers? How about finding methods to survey those who work within the organization? Couldn't you also have everyone who serves in the organization audit the effectiveness of the essential products and processes it has created?

And what about bringing in experts in similar fields to spend some time within your organization to help your organization discover if you properly understand your strengths and weaknesses? Most of you would answer, "Yes, these are good ways to measure the effectiveness of an organization." These questions reflect the process our entire school went through this school year.

For the past 15 years, every five years, we have gone through an intense accreditation process known to us (those employed by the school) as Christian Schools International Accreditation. This year marked our third time through the process. Succinctly put, the accreditation process helps us measure our effectiveness in delivering on our mission. Accreditation gives our organization the opportunity to ask you (parents and students), each other (staff), and experts (other educators) outside our organization questions that help us better understand in what areas we can be affirmed and in what areas we need to grow.

You might think the temptation of this process is to give each other "warm fuzzies." We would agree, there is a definite temptation in these processes to "pat each other on the back'' for a job well done. However, we can confidently say there wasn't much of this as a part of our process. Our customers (parents and students) were honest with us; our staff fairly audited our products and processes, and the outside experts who were a part of our site team visit skillfully affirmed our work as well as challenged us in areas we need to develop.

Why is the accreditation process so important? Allow us to offer you several reasons:

  1. It is evidence that we take your feedback seriously. Our new School Improvement Plan (SIP) goals reflect much of what you desire for our school. We can honestly state your feedback was considered and implemented within our new SIP.
  2. The process works. Our last SIP that came out of accreditation five years ago yielded results. School-wide initiatives such as "Teaching for Transformation (TfT)," "Professional Learning Communities (PLC's)," and "One to One Technology" were all a result of our prior SIP. We have had success with all three initiatives to the point that our teaching staff has recognized PLC's and TfT as practices we need to continue to implement and improve.
  3. The accreditation site team affirmed our new SIP. Why is this a big deal? For starters, the group under­stands the direction a successful Christian school system should be headed. The team consisted of two heads of schools, one former secretary of education for the state of South Dakota, two heads of teaching and learning, one curriculum director, and two teachers who are considered to be the best in their particular fields. Also, the schools/organizations they come from are all considered high-quality institutions. Therefore, their affirmation carries weight.

The group specifically identified our school as a school that leads itself with the mission of the school as its motivation. In our opinion, this is the highest compliment a school can receive, and we take pride in an outside entity recognizing this in us. We work hard at delivering on our mission for those we serve, and to have a group of distinguished professionals recognize this in us is encouraging and spurs us on to deliver on our mission all the more.

The new SIP which includes five key goals and detailed explanations of each is now in the final approval process with Christian Schools International which will then be shared with staff and you later this year.

We invite you to pray for this SIP as it is finalized and implemented and as we seek to serve the Lord and each of you better in the upcoming years.