By Joanne Andruscavage, Director of Accreditation, SAIS

When you read the word “accreditation,” what comes to mind? Dread? Drudgery? A series of hoops your school must jump through to earn recognition? A certificate? What’s your “elevator speech” about your school’s accreditation? 

Kevin Bartlett, internationally recognized for his work in education, has a passion for designing and delivering professional learning systems including accreditation protocols. He suggests that we use an inquiry approach to understanding accreditation as a generative process. If the purpose of school is student learning, then the purpose of accreditation is learning for the entire school. Children learn, adults learn, schools learn … makes perfect sense.

So, if the purpose of accreditation is to help schools learn, what are the essential questions that we can ask, and how will they help the school? Let’s begin by defining what learning means and what it looks like in the context of the school’s mission. Is what you say in your mission the same as what you actually do day to day in the school? How do we connect our philosophy and practice? Are we connecting the dots or are we just collecting dots?

What does a “good school” look like? In the accreditation process, guidance is provided by the association’s set of standards, the commonly held beliefs of best practices and legal and ethical responsibilities. While these standards could be seen as static, the reality is that schools can continue to learn and grow in operational areas. No one can know every detail of school management, and the accreditation process shines a light on critical aspects of independent school governance and operations. At SAIS we have curated an impressive resource library that correlates closely with the accreditation standards.

Where does the school want to be, and how does accreditation help them get there? This is where SAIS offers a unique approach to learning: the focus on the school’s visionary growth. Where does the school want to go next? How is it meeting its challenges and preparing for the future? Is the school meeting the needs of the students, families, and staff? What areas need improvement, and what will the school do about them? As the school works through a comprehensive and inclusive process of self-study, it moves from silos to systems, from fragments to whole, from compliance to growth.  

Are you ready to “get engaged” in learning for your whole school? We only get better if we learn to get better. Through the process of accreditation, we can engage with the power of feedback and learn to fully live our purpose as an independent school. We can learn to thrive, not merely survive.