Once a school has submitted its Application for Candidacy, a small committee is appointed by the Director of the Commission and is supplied with copies of the application filed by the school. The committee conducts an onsite visit, ordinarily of one day, to verify the information in the application. This committee prepares a written report (the Candidacy Report) for the school and for the Commission on Independent Schools and provides, in a separate letter, a recommendation to the Commission as to the acceptance of the school into the Candidate category. Expenses of the visiting committee are borne by the school being evaluated for Candidate Status.
Because the visit is brief, it is essential to make the most efficient use of the available time. The schedule should provide time for:
- An initial meeting of the committee
- A tour of the school
- Classroom visits
- Interviews of some faculty and staff
- An extended session with the Head of School
- Time for the committee to caucus and draft the report
Before the visit ends, completed expense vouchers should be collected by the Chair, who will submit them to the evaluated school for processing and payment.
Prior to leaving the institution, written drafts of sections of the Candidacy Report must be submitted to the Chair for editing and review. Compiling the final draft of the report is the responsibility of the Chair.
Role of the Visiting Team
One person is identified as the Chair of the Visiting Committee with leadership responsibility similar to that of the Chair of the Visiting Accreditation Team in a comprehensive initial or decennial evaluation. The differences in the two visits are that in the Candidacy Visit the team is smaller (2 or 3 persons), the duration of the visit is shorter (one day), and the committee focuses on the candidacy application and its attachments. The committee Chair does not normally visit the institution prior to the scheduled candidacy visit. The Chair, however, should contact members of the committee to make arrangements for the visit and schedule the day. The Head of the School should be contacted by the Chair in advance of the visit to create a schedule for the visit.
The Candidacy Report
The Candidacy Report should focus on the Application for Candidate for Accreditation which was completed by the institution and submitted to the Commission. There should be a brief narrative on each of the sections, and strengths and areas of concern should be noted. The purpose of the report is to guide the school in preparing for full accreditation. The report should identify areas which require attention in order to meet the standards and should make recommendations, if appropriate. The sections are as follows:
I. Enrollment Data
IV. Student Body
VII. Administrative Organization
VIII. Institutional Issues
IX. Overall Assessment
The visiting committee should also submit a letter making a recommendation to the Commission. An institution that meets the criteria and appears ready to work toward evaluation for membership and accreditation should be recommended for affiliation as a Recognized Candidate for Accreditation. Note that this status means that a school is ready to work toward accreditation, but not that it meets all of the Standards for Accreditation at this time. Recognition as a Candidate for Accreditation is not to be confused with membership in or accreditation by the Association.
The Exit Interview
It is appropriate for the committee to meet with the Head of the School prior to departing. Many Chairs find it good practice to explain, in condensed form, the contents of the Candidacy Report. It is important that both the content and tone of the exit interview be consistent with the written report which will be submitted to the Commission. The Chair should not discuss the committee’s recommendation regarding Candidacy and should explain that the Commission will make the final decision.
Following the Visit
When the visit is completed, the Chair of the visiting committee will complete and edit the written report. Every effort should be made to submit a report that is scrupulously fair and factually accurate to assist the school in moving toward accreditation and to assist the Commission in making decisions. As soon as possible following the visit, the Chair will forward the Candidacy Report and the written recommendation to the Director of the Commission at the offices of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. The committee’s assignment is now complete. After the committee's report and recommendation have been reviewed by the Commission, the Commission will forward a copy of the Candidacy Report to the school with a notification letter of its decision. The Commission typically meets three times a year (in February, June, and November) to review reports from schools and visiting committees.