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FAQ

General questions

... about NEASC/CIS

How long does it take to become accredited through NEASC?

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.

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.

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.

Does NEASC accredit Early Childhood Programs?

No, NEASC does not accredit programs serving students below the age of three. Although NEASC is accrediting a wider range of schools than during its early years, the focus of the NEASC accreditation process is on the experience of students in preschool and older.

Some independent schools — accredited through the NEASC/CIS — 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. NEASC/CIS 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.

Does NEASC collaborate with any other accrediting agencies?

Yes. NEASC works collaboratively with the American Montessori Society (AMS) (AMS), the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI), and the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA). Schools sometimes seek joint accreditation with NEASC and these agencies. NEASC works with these agencies to provide an accreditation process which supports the goals of both organizations and the schools. Visiting teams for joint accreditation represent both associations and all reports are shared with both organizations.

Within New England, NEASC shares its accreditation protocol with the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) and the Association of Independent Schools of New England (AISNE). Both these agencies accredit some elementary schools in their regions and are aligned philosophically with NEASC regarding the purposes of accreditation.

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.

FAQ Focus

...questions from our members

What is CIS looking for when submitting a curriculum?

During the decennial accreditation visit, a school is asked to submit a written curriculum to the Visiting Team. The curriculum should demonstrate an intentional and thoughtful progression of concepts and skills which are appropriate to the students enrolled. We would like evidence that the school has considered recognized research-based standards and used them to benchmark what students should know and be able to do at various points in their education. The written curriculum is not viewed in isolation but within the context of other documents requested, responses to various indicators, classroom observations, and conversations with faculty and staff. The Program Review documents, generally completed during the first few months of the Self-Study process, articulate how instructional strategies and methods used by teachers reflect the school’s core beliefs about teaching and learning. The Program Review documents also address key issues of mission alignment, differentiation, available resources, professional development, and vertical articulation.

In addition to the written materials submitted, the Visiting Team will be asking faculty how the school regularly discusses and reviews its curriculum. The expectation is that schools have institutional practices which encourage teachers to engage in curriculum review using student performance data as well as national best practices. Conversations with new teachers provide helpful information about how the school’s curriculum materials support new teachers as they plan lessons, adjust pacing, and determine assessments.

What is the difference between strategic planning, long-range planning and multi-year planning?

Answer:

The major differences between the three types of plans are the school’s knowledge of the present educational environment, the plan’s scope and the level of detail.

A strategic plan (the spaceship) establishes a vision for the school when the school is not completely sure of the rapidly changing dynamic educational landscape.  This type of plan strives to position the school to define its future and to be able to respond to these dynamic changes.  A strategic plan is transformative in nature and extends out at least 3-5 years. The details of the plan would be supported by a long-range plan.  An example of this type of planning would be school mergers or international partnerships and/or campuses. 

long-range plan (the jet) is narrower in its vision than a strategic plan because the school has fairly- reliable knowledge of the future educational landscape.  This type of plan moves the school toward improvement so that it can meet its needs in the future and generally extends out approximately 3 years. It contains goals, action steps, and budgetary implications to help the school achieve long- term sustainability and often feeds into a more visionary strategic plan. The movement of a school from a traditional educational program model to a program model that addresses 21st century learning skills across all grade levels and program areas would be an example of a goal found in a long-range plan.

multi-year plan (the helicopter) is based upon very reliable information about the immediate educational landscape.  This type of plan is more geared to maintaining the viability of the school rather than moving it forward. It extends out 1-3 years and consists of achievable yearly goals, action steps financial implications, persons responsible and benchmarks. The yearly review of a specific curriculum area would be an example of a goal or action step in a multi-year plan.

What are the requirements for day schools with international students?

Question: 

“Over the last five years, our day school has added a number of international students to our student body. We now have seventeen kids. We have been fortunate to work with an agency who has served our school and our international kids very well.  The agency recruits the students for us and makes all their travel arrangements. The agency also finds host families for our students’ homestays and we haven’t had to worry about this at all. We regard our international students as day students – exactly like all our other kids. This all being said, as we read the language in “Standard 8 – Residential Program and/or Homestay Program” we have some suspicion – even though we are day school – we should now be meeting this Standard. Is it true that a day school with international students, even though all the arrangements are made by an agency, should meet the requirements of Residential/Homestay Program of Standard 8?”
 

Answer: 

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. 

Most schools with whom we work have become much more sophisticated in their work with agencies. Many schools, for instance, conduct their own interviews by Skype with prospective students. A few schools have the resources to send – or hire – their own representatives to interview international kids sent to them by agencies. “Double checking” before students actually arrive is simply good practice for all.

perf:

  • Physically inspect the living conditions of international students – at least twice a year if not more frequently; international students should be living in reasonable accommodations, not in basements or attics; they should not have to share bathroom facilities with adults in the house
     
  • Insure that international students are being fed nutritiously and regularly
     
  • Insure that each adult in a host family has been through a CORI check
     
  • Insure by both thorough orientation and on-going communication that host families have a  clear understanding of school policies and procedures
     
  • Insure that each international student has a designated advisor or specific international student coordinator to whom he or she can speak confidentially and openly; for students whose English may not be entirely fluent it is the responsibility of the host school to have a translator on campus who can speak directly with students.
     
  • Be sure lines of communication with students’ families are direct.  In many cases this will require a school to use a translator to insure that families understand calendars, school policies and be up-to-date on anything that affects their child.  Schools must understand it can be very difficult for international families to have their children so far from home and must make specific efforts to reach out to them.

Many schools are doing exceptional work with their international students. These schools have created programs that engage international students with the local communities at many levels – from volunteer work to regular cultural excursions. And many have taken clear and often imaginative steps, particularly to engage these young people on weekends and during short vacation periods.  We encourage schools to keep in mind that it is not the mission of International students to “add diversity” to a school. They come to engage with American education and to learn as much as they can about another culture – while, surely, bringing essential insights with them. 

The growing population of international kids throughout our independent school world brings special opportunities and particular responsibilities and it is important for schools to understand that the presence of international students in their community brings the absolute necessity to understand that they are NOT “day students just like the other kids.”  They don’t live with their parents and they are far from home. Relying on the work of agencies may be a very reasonable first step.  But ALL schools must recognize the intention of the Homestay Standard is to insure the distinctive needs of international students – whether it is five kids or seventy-five - are being met.