Answers to commonly asked questions about NEASC and Accreditation
What is Accreditation?
Grounded in the experience and expertise of practicing educators since 1885, NEASC Accreditation is a respected, effective, and time-tested methodology for school improvement and growth. It is not a single event, but rather an ongoing, voluntary cycle of comprehensive internal and external assessments, short- and long-term strategic planning, and periodic reporting sustained by professional partnership and support. It is intended to serve as a framework for schools to meet their own unique goals for student learning while maintaining alignment with research-based Standards for Accreditation that define the characteristics of high quality, effective learning communities. It also serves to assess the systems in place for ongoing institutional self-reflection and a school’s commitment to and capacity for continuous growth and/or transformation.
How does Accreditation work?
A school interested in accreditation begins by applying for candidacy and must demonstrate that it has the basic structures, policies, and systems in place to support a quality learning environment. Once a school has been recognized as a NEASC Candidate for Accreditation, the cycle commences. The nature and timing of reviews and other assessment tools provided by the NEASC Commissions may vary, but all have at their core a rigorous and comprehensive self-reflection process followed by an on-site evaluation conducted by a team of trained peers from the educational community, follow-up reporting*, strategic planning, implementation, and ongoing personalized support.
*Because each school is reviewed based upon its unique characteristics and applications of the NEASC Standards, no two peer review reports will be alike.
What are the Standards for Accreditation?
The Standards for Accreditation are a research-based, rigorous, and holistic set of practices and concepts reflective of educational best practices that:
- ensure the structures, policies, and systems are in place to support a high quality, effective learning community
- provide a foundation and framework for school communities and accreditation teams to identify the unique strengths and needs of each institution
- are developed by each of the NEASC Commissions to address the distinct needs of the schools served — whether public, independent, or international
- invite schools to define the transferable skills, knowledge, values, and dispositions necessary for future student success
- challenge schools to focus more on impactful, personalized learning
NEASC conducts periodic reviews of its Standards and protocols to stay aligned with current educational research, best practice, and governmental regulations, and to remain responsive to member needs.
Please refer to the appropriate Commission to view the Standards for your school:
What are "Visiting Teams"?
Each year volunteers contribute 250,000+ combined hours of their time to conduct professional peer reviews — the heart of NEASC Accreditation. Trained volunteers from the educational community work together as a team to visit each school undergoing an accreditation review to conduct on-site, objective assessments.
These "Visiting Teams" evaluate a school's alignment with the appropriate NEASC Commission Standards. This process includes:
- conducting observations of teaching and learning
- interviewing students, parents, faculty, administration and the wider school community
- reviewing reports generated by and about the school
- validating the school's self-reflection/internal-assessment
- identifying strengths and recommendations specific to each school
- submitting reports, commendations, and recommendations to the appropriate commission for final evaluation
How is Accreditation awarded?
Educational institutions which voluntarily demonstrate through the NEASC’s assessment processes that they are aligned with established Standards are Accredited, and thus become members of the Association.
Accreditation is not a single event, but rather an ongoing, voluntary cycle of comprehensive internal and external assessments, short- and long-term strategic planning, and periodic reporting sustained by professional partnership and support. Member schools must, according to the appropriate Commission protocol, periodically demonstrate continued alignment with NEASC Standards in order to maintain their NEASC Accreditation/Membership.
Can an institution lose its Accreditation?
The status of NEASC Accreditation is ongoing and subject to periodic review. It is not granted for a specific period of time, nor is it a based on a single event — and it may be withdrawn. A school's membership in the Association is dependent upon its ability to periodically demonstrate continued alignment with the NEASC Standards and continued capacity for self-improvement.
Member institutions are reappraised on a cycle managed by each Commission. An institution found to be out of alignment with NEASC Standards is normally provided with additional assistance and time to take corrective action. If the school is not responsive, an adverse action may follow (i.e, denial of candidacy, termination of candidacy, denial of accreditation, placement on probation, termination of accreditation). Opportunity is provided for appeal of any adverse action against an institution. Once the time allowed for appeal by an institution of adverse action has elapsed, a public announcement of the Association action is released.
Who makes decisions regarding Accreditation?
Volunteers recruited from and nominated by the professional educational community are at the core of the inclusive, collaborative process of Accreditation.
The Visiting Teams
Trained volunteers from the educational community work together as a team to visit each school undergoing an accreditation review to conduct on-site, objective assessments and evaluate a school's alignment with the appropriate commission standards. The teams support the determination of accreditation status by submitting reports to the appropriate NEASC Commission for final evaluation. Reports typically summarize observations, validate the school's self-assessment, and identify strengths and recommendations specific to each school.
The NEASC Commissioners
Commissioners, professionals elected to represent NEASC's diverse membership, meet regularly throughout the year to review accreditation reports submitted by and about member schools, and determine the accreditation status of each member school based on the commendations and recommendations generated by the Visiting Teams. In addition, Commissioners provide information to the NEASC Board of Trustees concerning candidacy, initial or continued accreditation, or removal from accreditation for each school undergoing Accreditation review.
Does NEASC rank or compare schools?
No. NEASC acknowledges and respects the unique populations, missions, and cultures of our membership and therefore does not compare or rank schools. Schools are evaluated by how well they fulfill their unique missions, the kinds of programs offered, the culture that is nurtured, and the qualities that will help students succeed. NEASC establishes rigorous standards of quality for all accredited institutions and supports schools wherever they may be on the continuum of improvement and/or transformation.
What does Accreditation guarantee?
Accreditation is a statement of confidence in the institution's purposes, performances, and resources.
NEASC Accreditation attests to
- substantial compliance with established qualitative standards
- integrity in statements to the public describing the institution's program
- institutional commitment to improvement
- sufficiency of institutional resources
NEASC Accreditation does not
- guarantee the experience of individual students
- guarantee the quality of specific programs
- compare or rank institutions
Does NEASC accreditation include online programs and branch campuses?
Yes. NEASC is an institutional accreditor, so it accredits the institution as a whole, including all programs at all locations, as well as those offered online.
Does NEASC Accredit Early Childhood programs?
No, NEASC does not accredit programs serving students below the age of three; the focus of the NEASC Accreditation process is on the experience of students in preschool and older.
Some independent schools — accredited through the NEASC Commission on Independent Schools — which serve infants and/or toddlers have received joint accreditation with the American Montessori Society (AMS), have sought additional accreditation through the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), or are licensed by the State. All of these options provide quality assurances for early childhood programs. We recognize that the governance and infrastructure of a school support all students regardless of age, and the school culture and climate facilitate the growth of all students regardless of age. We also acknowledge that there are programmatic and health and safety considerations which are best overseen by either AMS, NAEYC, and/or State Early Childhood Departments. The NEASC Commission on Independent Schools requires schools which serve children below the age of three to demonstrate compliance with state standards and state mandates for early childhood programs, and encourages these schools to additionally work with an agency which specifically focuses on early childhood programs.
In addition, NEASC interacts with pre-schools and pre-school programs through the K-8 accreditation process of the Commission on Public Schools Committee on Public Elementary and Middle Schools. Pre-schools’ faculties are encouraged to participate in the school accreditation process using the Standards as a guide. In this manner, pre-school programs in and of themselves are not accredited, but the school which houses the pre-school is permitted to extend the range of its accreditation to Pre-K. For example: a K-5 school that wishes its pre-school program to be included in the accreditation process will be accredited PreK-5. Pre-school programs, up to this point, have not been treated as stand-alone units.
Is NEASC a part of the Department of Education?
No. NEASC is a private, non-profit, non-governmental organization that is funded and supported by its membership. In the best interest of its membership, NEASC has no legal or business ties to the government.
However, NEASC and its Commissions are recognized as approved accreditation agencies by the National Association of Independent Schools and the United States Department of Education. “Recognition” demonstrates that NEASC has undergone external reviews and affirms that processes and outcomes are in place to support the best interests of students, educators, and the public.