“I cannot think of any action taken by a school that produces more total school benefit than the decision to attain accredited status. Curriculum quality is strengthened, school policies are refined, student achievement enhanced, and future directions strengthened. Without accreditation the attainment of overall excellence for a Christian school is difficult.”
Ken Tanis–Delaware Christian Schools (Pennsylvania)
Striving for Excellence: Accreditation as a Path to Quality
- Accreditation is sought by schools and programs in order to validate their quality and to verify that they are striving for excellence. Most ACSI schools/programs bear the name of Christ, which is excellent, and should reflect His name in the way they provide high-quality education.
- Accreditation should be viewed as an ongoing process of school-wide improvement and development through which a school or program strives for educational and spiritual excellence. It is a process of recognizing and assessing schools and programs against accepted standards of performance, integrity, and quality.
- Accreditation is a voluntary process. A school/program that commits to striving for excellence through accreditation is agreeing to a process of ongoing review to strengthen and improve effectiveness and the quality of instruction for the population it serves. A school/program will need to identify the data and research, the information, the evidence, and the documented results that ensure and confirm that it is meeting each standard
The ACSI accreditation is developed around two major themes:
- reflection on the spiritual aspects of each component of the organization, and
- evaluation of the educational quality and integrity of the organization.The former addresses the distinctive of a faith-based program or Christian school and the components which make an eternal impact on children, students, and families. The latter addresses the issues demonstrating that the school/program is true to its own statements of philosophy, mission, and goals and that it is meeting the standards of quality and effectiveness.
“Few initiatives enable and equip the early education program as much as participating in the ACSI accreditation process. Accreditation not only validates aspects of accomplishments, it encourages the pursuit of continued growth and self evaluation as well. Our school can measure marked improvements as a direct result of accreditation. The standards are well defined and applicable. Every aspect of our program has been positively effected; the administration, the teaching staff, support staff, parents and most importantly the children.”
Pat Baer–Baymonte Christian Preschool & Preschool Too (California)
Benefits of Accreditation: Too Important to Ignore
- Documents that the school is true to its own foundational statements
(mission, philosophy, and goals)
- Affirms that the school meets standards of quality established by the international school community
- Provides validation of the credibility of the school/program through a peer review process
- Promotes accountability to the school community and impacts parental contentment
- Improves instruction targeting increased student achievement
- Increases confidence and reduction of isolation
- Promotes on-going institutional improvement through a continuous process of self-assessment and systematic school/program development.
- Encourages the evaluation of the biblical and spiritual integration of the school program
- Transfers credits between schools and between nations’ school systems
- Extends access to resources and tools to the school/program
- Provides a complete review and written documentation of school program
- Gives purpose and direction for long-range strategic planning
“The self-study process of accreditation that schools go through provides the greatest benefit and is the key to school excellence. When you have all of your school’s constituency contributing to the process, you bring into focus the areas that can be examined and improved to make your school outstanding and pleasing to God.”
Dr. Larry Daugherty–Maranatha Academy (Kansas)
Indicators of a Quality Early Education Program
- A curriculum based on sound Christian principles of child development
- Warm and nurturing interactions among children and staff
- A healthy and safe environment for children
- A sufficient number of adults per child, appropriate for group size
- Strong communication among parents and staff
- Staff who are interactive with children and parents
- A commitment among staff to the continual development of teaching skills
- Developmental appropriateness of the curriculum
- Plentiful materials to stimulate learning
- A developmental focus that meets the needs of the whole child
- A program that emphasizes language development and a print-rich environment
- A program that encourages exploration and discovery
—Adapted from “Finding the Center of Excellence,” Christian Early Education Magazine, Volume 3, Issue 5.
“ACSI Early Education Accreditation has made our school a better place. Our teachers receive encouragement and support and are motivated towards excellence. The accountability of accreditation gives Happy Hands credibility in our community. And our association with ACSI has provided resources and relationships that are immeasurable. But best of all, our children are receiving what they need and deserve. It’s all about the children! Thank you ACSI!”
Jan Pride–Happy Hands Educational Center for the Deaf (Oklahoma)
Accreditation Defined: Early Education Program
In recent years, the early education community has rallied around accreditation as an important pursuit for early education centers. You may have heard about accreditation and wondered, Why should this matter to me? Or perhaps the term accreditation conjures up images of higher education and seems both intimidating and unattainable. This article is meant to take some of the mystery out of accreditation and share a few ways ACSI preschool accreditation can be a tool for strengthening your program.
Let’s begin with a definition. Accreditation includes a systematic self-examination of a school program, validated by peer review. It includes comparing your program with accepted standards or best practices in the field, as well as evaluating whether your school accomplishes its stated purposes.
Where licensing falls short, accreditation can be an effective tool for evaluating all aspects of a program.
We can also define accreditation by noting how is is distinct from licensing. In many states, programs for young children are regulated by licensing agencies concerned with protecting children’s well-being and safety. These licensing regulations are commonly considered the floor of quality, below which a school is not safe for children. In this sense, licensing exists to protect children from harm, certainly a worthy aim, but arguably insufficient. As Christian educators convinced through our Lord’s example of the worth of young children, ought we not strive for more? Accreditation requires early education programs to actively promote children’s well-rounded growth and development, and thus it has been likened to the ceiling of quality, which sets a standard of excellence focused on helping children reach their full potential in Christ. Often, licensing standards do not address the experiences and environments young children need for their intellectual development. Even more importantly, licensing does not hold programs accountable for the spiritual development of children. Because we’re following a scriptural mandate, we Christian school educators must be held accountable for the spiritual outcomes in the lives of the children who attend our schools. ACSI accreditation is the better fit for Christian preschools because it requires an evaluation of spiritual as well as educational effectiveness.
Most directors regularly evaluate their programs. They are ever aware of classroom interactions and parent comments, making mental note of successes and areas where improvement is needed. This informal self-examination process comes naturally to those concerned with providing quality programs. However, accreditation takes this inclination to improve and systematizes it, providing greater focus and enhanced results in the pursuit of excellence. It is certainly possible to put in a bolt with your bare hands, but using a screwdriver is faster and makes the fit tighter and stronger. A screwdriver focuses your energy and increases the impact of your efforts. Do you want to get more results from your activities? Your time is too precious not to take advantage of the tools that can help you accomplish your goals. ACSI accreditation can be one of those tools for your center.
Perhaps you have a desire to see your school grow, but you don’t know where to start. Accreditation can be a road map in accomplishing your school’s goals. It will help you focus on your destination and assist you in discerning the best route to the level of excellence you desire. Beyond focusing efforts and providing direction, accreditation can harness your energy and bring you to a place of accountability for your good intentions. Accreditation also places your school in a continual process of evaluation and improvement, thus facilitating ongoing growth.
If Christian preschools exist to glorify God and advance His kingdom, they must be intentional in their approach to caring for and educating young children. We encourage you to pursue ACSI accreditation in order to promote the growth of your school, your staff, and most importantly, the children you serve.
Leanne Leak–Assistant Director and Early Education Coordinator–ACSI Northern California/Hawaii Regional Office