Accreditation: quality assurance for schools
January 31, 2022
Of all the exciting things happening at Aspen Country Day School, accreditation won’t make the top 10 list. But this topic is more interesting than it appears.
Accreditation is a serious designation that has to be renewed every 10 years. Our school has earned its accreditation from the Association of Colorado Independent Schools (ACIS). In the Roaring Fork Valley, only Aspen Country Day School and Colorado Rocky Mountain School have earned this accreditation. Other ACIS schools include Vail Mountain School, Kent Denver, Fountain Valley School, and Graland Country Day School. Read more about ACIS and accreditation here.
The ten-year cycle holds schools like ours accountable for high standards. ACIS notes, “By requiring adherence to these standards, ACIS provides meaningful assurance of the educational quality and institutional strength of its member schools.”
As a baseline, all ACIS schools must be non-profit organizations; independent from any other organizations such as churches, funding organizations, or the state; mission driven and non discriminatory; and committed to building an equitable, just, and inclusive school community.
Here’s where we stand in our own accreditation cycle
2022-23: mission review & constituent surveys
All parents, faculty, and alumni are surveyed to gather data and insights. We review our mission and make sure it is still a good fit for our school. There’s a thorough review of our curriculum to document the program our students are experiencing as they complete their journey through the grades.
2023-24: self study
The entire school community participates in a self study. We takes an entire year to assess how we’re complying with standards set by the Association of Colorado Independent Schools. These cover everything from admissions to the academic program to risk management, fundraising, governance, transportation, and the student experience. We take a hard look at our strengths and areas for improvement. The self-study our staff wrote (for the 2015 visit) numbered 85 pages.
2024-25: evaluation visit
ACIS puts together a “visiting team,” a committee led by an experienced head of school and made up of administrators and teachers from other independent schools. This small group uses a checklist, the ACIS Accreditation Standards, to rate how we are performing in all areas from curriculum to governance to finance to facilities. The visiting team then spends three days on our campus in the fall, interviewing dozens of students, teachers, parents, and staff. They write up a report that includes commendations and recommendations — including many suggestions for ways to improve.
The following years
The back and forth begins, with our school sending a “First Response” to the visiting team’s report, acknowledging all the recommendations and seeking clarification where necessary. In the following years, we report periodically on our progress. There may be another visit halfway through the cycle, and ACIS helps provide resources and guidance. The school has to show that it has grown and improved, rather than just maintaining the status quo.