NJAIS Accreditation Overview
Accreditation is central to the mission of NJAIS. NJAIS has been accrediting member schools since 1995, either as the sole accrediting agency, or cooperatively with the American Montessori Society (AMS), the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA), or the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSA-CESS). As an association, NJAIS schools are either accredited or, as Provisional Members, on a path to becoming accredited.
Similar to its member schools, NJAIS itself participates in a rigorous and impartial review of its accreditation program and demonstrates adherence to the Criteria for Effective Independent School Accreditation Practices set forth by the International Council Advancing Independent School Accreditation (ICAISA, formerly known as the NAIS Commission on Accreditation). In 2001, the NJAIS accreditation program was granted recognition by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). In 2013, NJAIS was granted certification by an international review panel from the NAIS Commission on Accreditation. NJAIS is a member in good standing of ICAISA. The NJAIS accreditation program is reviewed every 10 years by members of the Council.
The NJAIS accreditation process is both intensive and thorough. NJAIS believes that successful schools must periodically take time for self-reflection and an in-depth look at current practices, not only to assure compliance with the NJAIS Standards for Accreditation, but also to be certain that the school’s mission informs every aspect of school life, and that the process also centers on growth as an educational community. Beyond the audit/compliance aspect of accreditation, this focus of accreditation as a school-improvement model is fundamental to NJAIS accreditation and its support of member schools.
Ultimately, accreditation is for the benefit of students, who are not only at the heart of each school’s mission and community, but also central to NJAIS accreditation.
The Ten-Year Cycle:
The NJAIS accreditation process is cyclical in nature.
The Self-Study Report: Every 10 years, a school undertakes a comprehensive self-evaluation that results in a Self-Study Report. This is the foundation of the accreditation process and provides the focus for the subsequent visit of a team of seasoned educators.
The Visit: A Visiting Team, comprised of peers from other independent schools, visits the school, views it through the lens of its mission statement, the NJAIS Standards for Accreditation, and the school’s Self-Study Report. Following this visit, the Visiting Team provides the school and the NJAIS Accreditation Committee with a draft report that includes the team’s observations, commendations, and recommendations.
Follow-Up: Between one and three months after the Decennial Visit, the school receives from NJAIS a final comprehensive Decennial Report and learns of its accreditation status. This Decennial Report lays the foundation for future school improvement and strategic planning/thinking/visioning.
Action Plan: Within one year of the receipt of the Decennial Report, the school must submit to NJAIS an Action Plan. The school chooses three to five overarching goals or initiatives on which it intends to focus in the coming years. This Action Plan must also include responses to all of the recommendations in the Decennial Report.
Five-Year Visit: Five years after the initial visit, a team of two or three members - from the original Visiting Team, if possible - visit the school. In advance of this visit, the school writes a Five-Year Report, including a state-of-the-school update, a description of progress on recommendations from the Decennial Report, and a response to the current NJAIS Standards for Accreditation. Accreditation status is evaluated again at this five-year juncture.
Significant Change Visits: During the time that a school is accredited by NJAIS it may undergo significant changes. The NJAIS accreditation process requires that a visit to the campus of the school take place as soon as possible - or within six months at most - following the change(s). Accreditation status is evaluated again after a Significant Change Visit.