Parents looking at online schools for their children often come across the term “accredited.” Although many parents recognize that this important, not many know why it is so important or what it means to be an accredited school.
What Does it Mean to be Accredited?
For many K-12 schools, accreditation is completely voluntary, meaning the school volunteers to be evaluated to receive accreditation. When a school becomes accredited, it means that 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. This helps to ensure students will have credit and course reciprocity should they attend other schools as well as diploma validation for college or employment.
What Is an Accrediting Agency?
While the U.S. Department of Education approves accreditation agencies for higher education (e.g. college), the Department does not claim jurisdiction over the accreditation of K-12 schools. Rather, most of the accrediting agencies are self-appointed to evaluate elementary and secondary schools. This has led to multiple organizations that bestow accreditation to K-12 schools, however, not all of these hold the same weight. In the U.S., there are six original accrediting agencies.
- Middle States Association
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges
- North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
- Northwest Accreditation Commission
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges
These six agencies are known as regional accreditation agencies. Because of their history and the large number schools they accredit, regional accreditation agencies are the most widely accepted.
Acellus Academy is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). This accreditation agency is made up of three different commissions: Accrediting Commission for Schools, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, and 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 hosting an onsite review. 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. 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 three to six year cycle, and after this period, the cycle starts over with another self-assessment.
Why Is Accreditation Important?
There are several key reasons that accreditation is important to K-12 online schools. 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 a high-quality education.
If the school your student attended wasn’t accredited, it is unlikely the credits you earned will be recognized by other accredited schools. This is problematic if you and your student decide to transfer to another 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 level of recognition. Individuals who graduate from tier one schools are given preferential treatment over individuals who graduated with a Tier II or III education status. Acellus Academy is a Tier I school, which would not be the case without accreditation. Tier II status indicates a student received an alternative to a high school diploma, such as the GED. Tier III status indicates that an individual has 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.
In addition to being accredited through the Western Association of Schools & Colleges (WASC), Acellus Academy offers AP courses that have been approved by both the NCAA and the College Board. If you have any further questions about Acellus Academy’s accreditation, please contact our team today!