Last week, I began explaining the New England Association of Schools and Colleges accreditation process. The process begins with the school completing a year-long self study. The self study is submitted to the NEASC and is provided to a visiting committee, which is comprised of six to ten educators from other New England schools who are NEASC members. The visiting committee examines the self study and then makes an official four-day visit to the school. During that time, committee members endeavor to talk with each and every school employee and interview faculty, staff, parents, and students, in order to better understand the self-study report. The role of the visiting committee is to ascertain that the school is actually doing what it claims it is doing, in relation to each of the standards.
Each school that goes through the NEASC accreditation process must address questions regarding these 15 standards. Mission; Governance; Enrollment: Program; Experience of the Students; Resources to Support the Program; Early Childhood Program (if applicable); Residential Program and/or Homestay Program; Faculty; Administration; Evaluation and Assessment; Health and Safety; Communications; Infrastructure; and the Accreditation Process, itself.
In addition, the school must provide documentation in several areas, including its corporate status as a tax-exempt institution, its non-discriminatory admissions and employment practices, and certain inspection documents (i.e. health inspection for food services, fire marshal inspections). The school must also have a completed Emergency Plan.
During the self-study, the school faculty and staff members develop commendations and recommendations regarding each of the standards. Based on their interviews, class visits, etc., the visiting committee also makes commendations and recommendations for each standard. At the end of the report, the visiting committee makes major commendations and recommendations to the school. The committee also votes on each standard to determine if standards have been met or unmet, and to what degree.
The visiting committee chair submits a detailed report to the NEASC commission on independent schools. The NEASC shares the report with the Head of School of the school, who has the opportunity to comment on any information presented in the report. The report then goes to the commission to be read at one of its regular meetings. At that time, the commission votes on whether or not to grant continued accreditation to the school for another ten years, to grant continued accreditation and some specific stipulation, to grant continued accreditation and place the school on warning, or to place the school on probation, which would usually happen only after a warning period.
The school then must provide reports at the two year and five year marks, reporting on progress on each major recommendation. This process has proven valuable for the schools that participate, and similar processes are used throughout the country, facilitated by other organizations, such as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, etc.
The chance for members of a school community to self evaluate based on set standards is an opportunity for growth. Having the school’s evaluation challenged and/or validated by a visiting committee strengthens the process. Finally, sending various faculty and staff members out to participate in visiting committees at other schools’ accreditation visits provides a professional development opportunity for those people.
As always, should you have questions about Lincoln Academy, please feel free to make an appointment to meet with me. You may contact Carole Brinkler, Assistant to the Head of School at 207-563-3596, ext.102.