The Value of Online School Accreditation
Parents looking at online schools for their children often come across the term “accredited.” Although many parents will recognize that this important, not many know why it is so important or what it means to be an accredited school. At Acellus Academy, we want to explain what it means for an online school program to be accredited and why it matters for your child’s education.
What Does ‘Accredited’ Mean?
For K-12 education, accreditation is completely voluntary, meaning the school volunteers to be evaluated to receive accreditation. Most traditional private and public schools are expected to be accredited. However, since online schools are a relatively new education method, it is unclear why accreditation for online schools is important, and why these are better than their unaccredited counterparts.
When a school of any level is accredited, it has met certain predetermined criteria and has gone through a process to prove the education it provides meets these standards. The school is evaluated by an external agency that reviews the courses and educators to determine whether it meets the necessary qualifications.
Overall, accreditation assures the school’s academic excellence. Students will have credit and course reciprocity should they attend other schools as well as diploma validation for college or employment eligibility.
What Is an Accrediting Agency?
The U.S. Department of Education does not have any jurisdiction over the accreditation of K-12 schools. Rather, accrediting agencies are self-appointed to evaluate school accreditation. This has led to many organizations that give K-12 academic accreditation, but not all of these hold the same weight. In the U.S., there are six original accrediting agencies, and because of their history, they are recognized as more credible than other organizations. These agencies are regional organizations, and each one focuses on accrediting schools in a specific part of the country. The six original regional accrediting agencies in the U.S. are:
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges
- North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges
When people are talking about K-12 school accreditation, there are typically referring to the six original agencies. However, if you are deciding on an online school for your student, you should look into the school’s accreditation and whether it is from one of the agencies listed above.
Acellus Academy is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. The organization is made up of three different commissions—Accrediting Commission for Schools, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, and WASC Senior College and University Commission. As a K-12 school, the Accrediting Commission for Schools oversees Acellus Academy’s accreditation process.
What Is the Accreditation Process?
Every accrediting agency has a slightly different process, but overall, it involves conducting a self-study, setting school improvement goals, and participating in progress visits. The process is an on-going cycle, which means that just because the school receives accreditation, does not mean it maintains this status forever. Accreditation requires a school to be dedicated to high-quality student learning and ongoing school improvement.
The self-study or self-assessment process involves the school assessing its curriculum and programs and how these things impact the students’ education. It acts as a benchmark for how they are doing as a school and evaluates areas where it can do better. After the self-study, a school will set goals and make an action plan for the areas that need improvement. Over three to five years, the school will act on this plan while providing evidence of student success and school improvement.
The process of accreditation can be anywhere from a six- to ten-year cycle, and after this period, the cycle starts over with another self-assessment.
Why Is Accreditation Important?
Schools that receive accreditation have proven to their respective accrediting agency that they meet the educational standards. Many parents seek out accredited online schools because of the assurance that their students will meet specific benchmarks and receive high-quality educations.
There are several key reasons that K-12 online school accreditation is important. First and most importantly, if the school you attended wasn’t accredited, it is unlikely the credits you earned would be recognized. This is problematic if you and your student decide to transfer to a public or private school. Likewise, many colleges will not recognize diplomas from unaccredited high schools. Earning a diploma from an accredited online school will make it easier to get into the college of the student’s choosing without needing to take an equivalency exam.
Also, the military has a tiered classification system that looks at the high school education for someone who wants to enlist. Tier I schools are accredited and have the highest recognition. Individuals who graduate from tier one schools are given preferential treatment over individuals who graduated from a Tier II or III school. Acellus Academy is a Tier I school, which would not be the case without accreditation. Tier II schools are considered alternatives to high school diplomas, including the GED. Tier III involves individuals with no high school diploma or alternative credentials. Often, individuals who graduate from a non-accredited school are considered Tier III.
Lastly, many employers will verify the accreditation of the high school in which potential employees receive their diplomas. This ensures that each individual at a company or institution has received an education of a certain quality.
Online schools do not receive accreditation for the sake of accreditation but to prove that the program is effective and is up to par with public or private accredited schools. Plus, it sets up students for success once they complete online school and earn their high school diploma.
In addition to being accredited through the Western Association of Schools & Colleges (WASC), we offer AP courses that have been approved by both the NCAA and College Board. If you have any further questions about Acellus Academy’s accreditation, please contact our team today!
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