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Accreditation, what’s the big deal?

March 11, 2015
By Perry R. Banse, Assistant Superintendent, Middle/High School Principal

IRCS just recently went through an accreditation visit. Many of you may be asking what that means and why is it important. I’m glad you asked.

The term “accreditation” is used frequently when talking about schools and colleges. You may have heard the term or even talked about it but do not really understand what it actually means or the importance of it. A technical definition of accreditation is, “a national benchmark of quality that is a voluntary process validated by peer review and involving systematic self-evaluation against nationally accepted standards.” The plain English version of this definition is that accreditation is “a stamp of approval by an outside agency that says you are who you say you are and that you meet a level of standards as set forth by an accrediting agency.” The process of accreditation is neither quick nor easy. It is, however, an excellent process for a school to go through.

Indian Rocks Christian School is currently accredited through the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) that is a part of the AdvancED organization. The two agencies have a cooperating agreement whereby schools adhere to and function under a mutually agreed upon set of standards. ACSI provides the school visitation team made up of proven educators from other accredited schools. AdvanceED recognizes the work, awarding a dual accreditation to the school that successfully completes a visit. Accreditation is a valuable and necessary step towards getting our graduates into the colleges or universities of their choice, maintaining a high level of academics standards and achievement, as well as recruiting new students to our school.

The accreditation protocol focuses on five standards a school must meet:

  • Purpose and Direction – why does the school exist and where is it going
  • Governance and Leadership – what is the structure of how it is governed and run
  • Teaching and Assessing for Learning – are the teachers teaching and are the students learning
  • Resources and Support Systems – besides the teaching, what else helps the school run
  • Using Results for Continuous Improvement – how can we take these results and improve our school

While there is great value to the outcome of being an accredited school, a great deal of the benefit comes from the process a school goes through to achieve accreditation. The process helps a school understand each part of its existence and raises its quality of commitment. The study that happens isn’t done only by the administration, but with the involvement of all of the teachers at the school. Because it is a team effort, all members gain a deeper appreciation and sense of pride in their school and with that, an increased sense of ownership.

Every five years accredited schools must go through a self-study to renew their status for another five years. Our recent visit was exceptional. ACSI Associate Director, Pat Mennenga, was very complimentary of our school, as were the other Christian school educators on the team. Pat said, “I have been the Associate Director for the Florida Region for 17 years. I never realized how much IRCS had to offer.” In the team’s closing presentation to our staff, Pat mentioned that he would be happy if his grandkids could attend IRCS.

IRCS takes pride in its dual accreditation and we hope that you do, too.