Outside the School

AboutAccreditation.

What is accreditation?

Accreditors hold the power to shape the educational landscape within their sphere of influence. Accreditation ensures that independent schools live their missions and meet and maintain certain educational and institutional standards. The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) is the overarching accrediting agency in the United States. In July of 2018, NAIS created the International Council Advancing Independent School Accreditation (ICAISA) in order to oversee the 20 regional accreditation agencies, including the New England accreditors AISNE and NEASC.

National Association of Independent Schools
ICAISA

Icaisa provides quality assurance and accountability for accreditation programs of its 20 member associations

AISNE
NEASC
18 others regions

The problem.

In Part 2 of its Core Standards, ICAISA states, "The mission of the school is congruent with principles of academic scholarship, permitting and encouraging freedom of inquiry, diversity of viewpoints, and independent and critical thinking." We haven't seen any evidence that AISNE and NEASC are upholding this standard. For example, AISNE has not provided

Do AISNE and NEASC value and prioritize true diversity of thought and the freedom of discourse?

balanced offerings with respect to professional development, speakers, and other resources. This is what we want to change. In a time when polarization is prevalent, we want our children to learn how to converse with each other and value each person's unique experience and perspective. 

Are multiple and diverse perspectives represented by accreditation leadership?

One might ask if the very nature of the accreditation process could potentially create a system where schools feel pressure to adopt the accreditor's values and priorities in order to benefit from its resources. Accreditor leadership is comprised of current/former school heads, school board members, and other school administrators, which could create a conflict of interest. It can also create an echo chamber of ideas, which stifles free and diverse thought. 

Opportunities.

Accreditors play an integral, overarching role in helping independent schools uphold their missions and create strategic plans for growth. As a result, they hold the power to influence school culture by providing professional development, conferences, speakers, and other valuable resources to their member schools

We are asking our regional accreditors (AISNE and NEASC) to uphold the Core Standards Mission (set by ICAISA) by taking a principled stand in favor of free speech and to encourage diversity of thought. There are numerous ways to accomplish this important work, but we will suggest two:

1. As part of the accreditation process, schools must create, promote, and honor their own versions of the Chicago Statement (see excerpt below), which will compel institutions to protect the free expression rights of students, faculty, staff, and parents.

“Because “the school” is committed to free and open inquiry in all matters, it guarantees all members of the “school” community the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn. . . [I]t is not the proper role of the “school” to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive.”

—Excerpt from the Chicago Statement

2. Engage people who represent diverse viewpoints to speak to schools, parents, and students. Our students and educators need to hear from a variety of voices to provide some much-needed balance. Professional development in this area needs to be prioritized so teachers are better able to facilitate class discussions and promote critical thinking.
 

FOOTNOTES

[1] Nonprofit Explorer: Research Tax Exempt Organizations, ProPublica, https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/42453377

[2] Nonprofit Explorer: Research Tax Exempt Organizations, ProPublica, https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/42453377