Accreditation: Why it is Good for Your School

December 10, 2009 | Applesauce
By Barbara Nikkel

Once a school is organized and its doors are open, what steps should be taken next? Some would say the question is silly. Of course, as the school operates, it will mature and improve with each passing year. When school administrators and staff are asked whether they want school improvement, the answers are almost always overwhelmingly affirmative. We want our schools to get better. Wanting school improvement and achieving it, however, are not synonymous. How can our schools improve? What steps must we take? This article will explore how accreditation can help to bring about school improvement.

What is school accreditation? According to the Association of Christian Schools International, “accreditation is designed to assist member schools in achieving a standard of excellence and to encourage them in a continuous process of assessment and ongoing institutional development.” Becoming accredited generally involves meeting the school’s goals and the accrediting agency’s criteria. Through the self-study by the staff and constituency, all the components of the school’s ministry receive a careful appraisal. The result of successfully completing the accreditation process is validation of a school’s high quality and the verification that they are striving for excellence.

Provides structure for improvement.

Let’s consider a family that has planned a road trip across the United States. They discuss where to go, when to leave, and what to take along. The day comes, and the family’s goal is to drive from California to Florida. As they get into the car, the driver starts the engine, puts the car in gear, and then looks at the others. “How do we get to Florida?” he asks. What the family has neglected is to bring along a road map.

Just as we need a road map to get to a travel destination, so our schools need a “map” to guide them to school improvement. The accreditation process provides such a map, starting with determining the school’s mission. Every school has a mission. To be effective, the mission should be written, and plans should be made about how it will be accomplished. The accreditation process requires a school to analyze its mission and to determine and clarify its target audience. Accreditation provides the framework within which a school can minister effectively to its designated population.

Fosters staff unity and professional growth

The challenges of uniting a staff and inspiring them to work for school improvement can be overwhelming. We must remember when there are no defined goals, people will never know when they have accomplished what they wanted to do. To bring a staff together to determine the goals cooperatively and to define and pursue the objectives necessary to accomplish the goals can be a unifying and rewarding endeavor. Remembering a time of medical crisis or physical disaster that mobilized your school family to work together can remind you that the power and joy of working
together can translate into amazing results. Similarly, the accreditation process can result in staff unification and professional development.

Provides a biblical foundation

In looking at the growth process in a school, we can think about how a baby develops. A baby grows in wisdom and stature as it matures into adulthood. So does a school, and the accreditation process provides a means for such growth. As the book of Hebrews challenges us to move from the milk of God’s Word to its strong meat, our schools need to move from doing things the same way year after year. The accreditation process sends a message that our schools are searching for the “strong meat” of excellence and quality in Christian education.

The accreditation manual provides standards that address all the components of a school. Of greatest benefit with the ACSI protocol is that biblical standards are given for each section or category. The accreditation process provides a planned program for improvement based on a biblical foundation.

Provides school benefits

Most worthwhile accomplishments represent hours of labor; as the saying goes, “no pain, no gain.” Accreditation is a demanding process. Is it worth the effort? Let’s consider a few of its benefits. As a process, it enables the staff and the school population to continue to grow and improve according to a written plan. Once achieved, accreditation is a distinction for your school. It makes a statement that you meet professional, educational, and biblical standards. Thus it gives your school credibility and can be an effective marketing tool. Also, it is the basis for school accountability.

As you review and assess your school’s progress and effectiveness, I encourage you to consider pursuing school accreditation and experiencing the benefits of school improvement. Accreditation demonstrates your school’s commitment to Christ as you work toward excellence in all things. “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5, New King James).

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