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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

  1. What schools are the members of the Commission on Independent Schools?
     
  2. What is accreditation?
     
  3. How long has NEASC been accrediting schools?
     
  4. How many schools does NEASC accredit?
     
  5. How long does it take to become accredited?
     
  6. Why do schools seek to be accredited?
     
  7. Does NEASC accredit Early Childhood programs?
     
  8. What difference does accreditation make for students attending a school?
     
  9. Who oversees the work of the Commission on Independent Schools?
     
  10. Do the New England states recognize NEASC accreditation?
     
  11. Does NEASC rank schools?
     
  12. How do I choose a school?
     
  13. How do I obtain more information about NEASC member schools?
     
  14. How can I get information about a school’s accreditation status and/or copies of its accreditation reports?
     
  15. How can I file a complaint against a NEASC member school?
     
  16. How can I find out if a school is on probation?
     
  17. How can I find out about employment opportunities in independent schools?
     
  18. How large is the Commission staff and who are they?
     
  19. Do schools have alternatives to NEASC for accreditation?
     
  20. What does it cost to be a member of NEASC?
     
  21. Who makes the decisions regarding the accreditation of schools?
     
  22. Should day schools with international students, even though all the home-stay arrangements are made by an agency, meet all the requirements of the Residential/Homestay Program of Standard 8?

 

 

1. What schools are the members of the Commission on Independent Schools?

The Commission on Independent Schools is composed of non-public elementary and secondary schools in New England that are accredited by NEASC. The membership is very diverse and includes: elementary and secondary; day and boarding; coed, boys, and girls; secular and religious (Catholic, Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Episcopal, Seventh Day Adventist); college preparatory and special education; not-for-profit and proprietary; quasi-public town academies; Waldorf and Montessori. A full list with links to individual schools may be found in the Directory of Member Schools.

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2. What is accreditation?

Accreditation has two purposes: quality assurance and school improvement. Schools commit to meeting standards set by the association (quality assurance) and to engaging in a ten-year cycle of self-study, assessment by independent outside visitors - trained volunteers from NEASC member schools, goal setting, and reporting (school improvement). All accreditation materials (handbooks, guides, standards, manuals, etc.) may be found in and downloaded from Resources for Member Schools.

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3. How long has NEASC been accrediting schools?

NEASC, founded in 1885, is the oldest accrediting association in the United States. The first schools were accredited in the 1920’s.

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4. How many schools does NEASC accredit?

The Commission on Independent Schools has over 600 member and candidate schools. Collectively, the four commissions of NEASC connect and serve over 2,000 public and independent schools, technical/career institutions, colleges and universities in New England plus International Schools in more than 65 nations worldwide.

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5. How long does it take to become accredited?

Once a school has been granted recognition as a Candidate for Accreditation and has completed necessary preliminary work such as articulating its mission, curriculum, and various policies, the accreditation process takes 12 to 18 months. The school involves the entire community in a structured self-study, usually taking a full academic year, that examines every aspect of school life, assesses compliance with the NEASC Standards, and sets goals for school improvement. The school submits its self-study to the Commission on Independent Schools and hosts a visiting committee of educators from other member schools appointed by NEASC. This committee, usually numbering from 6 to 12 teachers and administrators, validates the self-study, independently assesses the school’s compliance with the Standards, and writes a report to the school and the Commission with commendations and recommendations. The Commission reviews the self-study and the report of the visiting committee in determining the school’s accreditation status. Schools must meet all Standards to be granted accreditation.

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6. Why do schools seek to be accredited?

There are two primary types of benefit for schools. Externally, accreditation is a statement of the institutional health of the school, of its adherence to standards, and of the integrity of its programs. Accreditation is an assurance of quality to teacher candidates and to families of prospective students, to the state, to foundations, to other schools, and to colleges.

Internally, accreditation is a powerful vehicle for school change and improvement. Schools learn about themselves and set goals for the future in a comprehensive self-study. They then benefit from the observations and recommendations of a group of peers from other schools who conduct a formal visit and observe the school in action over four days. The Commission oversees the school’s on-going response to recommendations and monitors its continued compliance with the Standards.

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7. Does NEASC accredit Early Childhood Programs?

Since its founding in 1885, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) has been working to establish and maintain high standards for all levels of education – from pre-kindergarten to the doctoral level. Over the past twenty years, the Commission on Independent Schools has reached out to, and overseen the accreditation of, an increasingly diverse group of schools. These schools with their unique missions find commonality in benchmarking themselves against the NEASC standards and using the accreditation process to facilitate school improvement. Although NEASC is accrediting a wider range of schools than during its early years, the focus on pre-kindergarten through the doctoral level has not changed. The New England Association of Schools and Colleges does not accredit programs serving students below the age of three.

Although there are a small number of NEASC schools which enroll students below the age of three, the focus of the NEASC accreditation process is on the experience of students in preschool and older. NEASC Schools which serve infants and/or toddlers have often 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.

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8. What difference does accreditation make for students attending a school?

Accreditation is an assurance of quality that other schools and colleges may rely upon in granting transfer credit for courses and/or for interpreting transcripts. In most cases, students in non-accredited schools can gain similar recognition of their work by providing more extensive documentation of the work they have done.

The greatest benefit of accreditation for students is in the strengthening of their school.

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9. Who oversees the work of the Commission on Independent Schools?

The members of the Commission are elected by the member schools for three-year terms. The Commission on Independent Schools is one of four commissions in the NEASC that are responsible to the NEASC Board of Trustees. The Commission on Independent Schools is also a member of the NAIS Commission on Accreditation, composed of 19 state, regional, and international associations that accredit independent schools. The NAIS Commission establishes Criteria for Effective Accreditation Practices to which members must adhere. The Commission on Independent Schools completed a review by the NAIS Commission in 2002 and again in 2014 that included a self-study, a review by outside evaluators who observed school visits, office procedures, and a Commission meeting; and follow-up reports on the response to recommendations. As a result, the accreditation program of the NEASC Commission on Independent Schools is recognized by the NAIS Board.

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10. Do the New England states recognize NEASC accreditation?

Yes. All of the New England states recognize NEASC accreditation of independent schools as part of their school approval process.

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11. Does NEASC rank schools?

No. It is impossible to rank schools as diverse as those in our membership. Independent schools must be evaluated by how well they fulfill their distinctive missions, the kinds of programs offered, the culture that is nurtured, and the qualities that will help students succeed. Individual schools will provide information concerning these issues.

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12. How do parents choose a school?

Independent schools offer families a wide choice including large/small, secular/religious, boarding/day, coed/single sex, rural/urban. Further, individual schools have distinctive missions, different emphases in curriculum, and feature particular pedagogical approaches and extracurricular programs. To choose the right school, families need to seek a match between the interests/needs of their child and the character/offerings of a school. Go to Resources for Parents & Teachers > How to Find the Right School.

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13. How do I obtain more information about NEASC member schools?

A good place to begin is to visit the school’s website. Links to most schools are included in the Directory of Schools.

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14. How can I get information about a school’s accreditation status and/or copies of its accreditation reports?

A school’s accreditation status is listed in the CIS Directory of Schools, along with the year the school was first accredited and the year of the last full accreditation review. Schools are in good standing, unless there is a notation that they are on Probation. Accreditation reports and correspondence are the property of the school and are released by the school at its discretion.

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15. How can I file a complaint against a NEASC member school?

The Commission on Independent Schools has a Policy on Complaints. Briefly, the Commission cannot intervene on behalf of individuals, but will inquire into allegations that a school is not in compliance with one or more of the Standards for Accreditation. Written complaints should be submitted to the Director of the Commission. For more information, including mailing address and fax number, please see the Complaint Policy page.

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16. How can I find out if a school is on probation?

A school is placed on Probation if the Commission finds that it is not in compliance with one or more Standards and fails to remedy the situation within one year. Probation is a public status that is noted in the Directory of Schools.

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17. How can I find out about employment opportunities in independent schools?

NEASC does not maintain lists of job openings, but other associations to which schools belong do provide this service. There are also teacher placement agencies and it is always possible to contact individual schools directly. See Other Useful Contacts.

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18. How large is the CIS staff and who are they?

You may view the full list of CIS staff members on this website. The professional staff members are all previous heads of independent schools and have extensive experience with NEASC accreditation. As school heads, all have chaired many visiting committees and several have been members of the Commission on Independent Schools. In addition, CIS receives financial, administrative, and research services from the NEASC administrative office. 

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19. Do schools have alternatives to NEASC for accreditation?

Yes. A number of associations of like-minded schools offer accreditation services in New England. These include Montessori and Waldorf schools. There are also associations of Christian schools. Often schools seek joint accreditation with NEASC and one of these agencies, with the school completing the full NEASC self-study, adding a supplement to examine the special focus, and hosting a visiting committee representing both associations.

Within New England, NEASC cooperates with the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools (CAIS-CT) which also accredits elementary schools in Connecticut and with the Association of Independent Schools in New England (AISNE) which also accredits elementary schools, primarily in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Elsewhere in the country there are state and regional associations that are allied with NEASC through the NAIS Commission on Accreditation and there are the other five regional associations that, like NEASC, accredit the full range of public and non-public schools and colleges.

Unfortunately, there are also unscrupulous groups that offer “accreditation” for a price, with very little attention to standards of quality or to school improvement.

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20. What does it cost to be a member of NEASC?

Member schools pay annual dues to NEASC based on a Dues Formula that takes into account the grade range of the school, the number of students, and the level of tuition. Schools are also responsible for the expenses associated with the decennial evaluation visit.

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21. Who makes the decisions regarding the accreditation of schools?

The Commission on Independent Schools is composed of 20 members which include heads of schools, senior administrators, and two public members. They are elected to three-year terms by the full membership. The Commission meets for two days three times a year to review reports and take action on the accreditation status of member schools and to make changes to the standards (subject to NEASC Board ratification) for the several aspects of the accreditation process: Self-Study, visit, and follow-up. See Commission Membership and the CIS Staff list for the current roster.

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22. Should day schools with international students, even though all the home-stay arrangements are made by an agency, meet all the requirements of the Residential/Homestay Program of Standard 8?

In a word, “yes.”  And, yes, too, this has become one of our most frequently asked questions.    Over the last decade or so, increasing numbers of day schools have added international students to their populations.  Some schools have recruited these students – mainly from China, Korea and a few other Asian countries – themselves but more have relied on Agencies for this work.

In terms of recruitment, schools have learned, sometimes painfully, that not all agencies are equal.  Some do excellent work fitting students to the mission and requirements of a particular school; some others, sadly, have been more interested in their placement fees than in finding students actually ready to be full-fledged members of an English speaking school community.

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