What Does It All Mean?
Published: October 31, 2017
By: Emily Reed
Selecting the appropriate school to meet the educational needs of your child can be a daunting or confusing task. Parents often seek schools that nurture their children’s needs both in and out of the classroom.
With several private schools in the Birmingham and surrounding areas, is it important to know some of the differences between the various accreditations to help with the selection process.
American Montessori Society (AMS)
The American Montessori Society accreditation is the benchmark of standards to be an authentic Montessori program. Schools can be associate members of the AMS, but to have the accreditation is very special and difficult to achieve, according to Michele Wilensky of Hilltop Montessori School.
“It is an assurance to parents that the environment is an authentic Montessori program, which meets very rigorous standards and expectations,” Wilensky says. Hilltop Montessori School is housed in a Leadership in Energy Efficiency and Design (LEED) school with the USGBA (U.S. Green Building Council) and the campus is certified as a natural habitat through the National Wildlife Federation.
The school is also a member of the National Council of Private School Accreditation, she adds.
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
The board of directors of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Council on Accreditation and School Improvement (SACS CASI) and the Board of Trustees of the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement (NCA CASI) made a unanimous decision to unify their organizations, according to information provided on advance-ed.org. The National Study of School Evaluation also joined the unification.
The result was AdvancED – a single, comprehensive organization dedicated to advancing the quality of education for students worldwide. AdvancED is the “largest community of education professionals in the world,” according to the organization’s website.
Combining the knowledge and expertise of a research institute, the skills of a management consulting firm and the passion of a grassroots movement for educational change, the organization serves as a partner to 34,000 educational institutions, employing more than four million educators and enrolling more than 20 million students across the United States and 70 other nations.
Briarwood Christian School follows the same guidelines as the public schools systems, and is accredited by AdvancED, according to Debbie Robertson with Briarwood Christian School.
In addition to the school’s AdvancED accreditation, they have Exemplary School Accreditation status through the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI), Robertson adds. As of the school’s last accreditation in spring 2015, less than five schools nationally and internationally held this status.
ACSI serves more than 23,000 schools from 100 countries. ACSI partners with AdvancED through the accreditation process, following the same protocol and adhering to the same standards. ACSI adds additional standards to increase the rigor of expectations, as well as the addition of Biblical worldview integration, according to Robertson.
The Alabama Independent School Association also holds a partnership with AdvanceED/SACS and serves as the Lead Agency in the partnership. The partnership allows schools to obtain AISA and SACS accreditation through one seamless process, with the AISA serving as the managing partner in the process and utilizing AdvancED unique protocols and platforms, according to aisaonline.org.
National Association of Independent Schools
The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) is a non-profit membership association that provides services to more than 1,800 schools and associations of schools in the United States and abroad, including more than 1,500 independent private K-12 schools in the United States, according to information on nais.org.
Independent schools are non-profit private schools that are independent in philosophy: each is driven by a unique mission.
The schools are also managed and financed with each being governed by an independent board of trustees and is primarily support through tuition payments and charitable contributions. The schools are accountable to their communities and are accredited by state-approved accrediting bodies, the website states.
National Association of Private Schools
Schools accredited by the National Association of Private Schools have demonstrated a history of providing their students with a quality educational program, according to information provided by napsaccreditation.com.
Schools accredited by NAPS seek to meet or exceed state and national traditional educational guidelines in their pre-school through high school educational programs.
NAPS offers accreditation to schools that are concerned about both the mastery of basic academic skills and the character development of each child in their school.
The NAPS is an independent, third party accreditation agency non-affiliated from NAPS accredited schools, providing they have the proper academic credentials, testing and transcripts have entered colleges and universities, military services, church and educational ministries, and business ownership and the workplace.
The main advantage that state accreditation provides is the transfer of a student’s work from a state-accredited school to another state-accredited school, according to the website.
Emily Reed is a Birmingham freelance writer.