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What Does Accreditation Mean for Your Child?

More than seals and acronyms, accreditation is an important factor in choosing the right school.


Private School Guide Holy Nativity

photo: courtesy of holy nativity


“When a parent applies to an accredited school, he or she knows the school has undergone a rigorous look at itself and has been approved by fellow professionals and an external accrediting agency,” says executive director of HAIS Robert Landau. He has worked around the world in accreditation since 1981. “To be honest, there are excellent schools that are not accredited,” says Landau.“But I am a strong believer in the process and think accreditation is an important indicator of excellence.”


In Hawai‘i, the largest accreditors are HAIS and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), which work together with other organizations including Hawai‘i Catholic Schools to accredit private institutions here.


Accreditation is more than a rubber stamp of approval, it means “a school has undertaken a commitment to a process that involves a wide variety of people from administrators to board members, to community members to teachers, parents and students,” says Landau. Called the “self-study” process, accrediting a school means rigorous examination of facilities, curriculum, health, safety, governance and finances. 


This is no one-time exam. Rather, “accreditation implies a school wants to know where they can improve, what areas are in need of strengthening,” says Landau. “Accreditation is a journey that never ends, so every few years, the school is required to provide updated information, respond to previous recommendations, and demonstrate a strategic approach to development.”


A seal of accreditation signifies an examination of the comprehensive educational experience at a school. “I have seen many agencies move from a more checklist approach to a standards-based model where evidence of student learning and understanding is more important than resources or facilities,” he adds. This is useful for thinking ahead about college applications as well. “I always told my parent body that it was best to apply for college from an accredited school. After all, colleges and universities are accredited too. They know, understand and appreciate the importance and value of the accreditation process,” he says.


How do you know if the schools to which you’re applying are accredited or not? See our comprehensive Guide to Hawai‘i Private Schools, including accreditations. To help you navigate the acronyms, find a list of primary ones below:


Primary Accreditations


American Association of Christian Schools. National Christian accreditation body with member schools in all but four states. aacs.org



Association of Christian Schools International. Recognized by the National Council for Private School Accreditation. Accredits Christian schools from kindergarten through the 12th grade. acsi.org



American Montessori Society. amshq.org



Association of Waldorf Schools of North America. waldorfeducation.org



Hawai‘i Association of Independent Schools. Local umbrella organization that is part of the National Association of Independent Schools. hais.org



North American Division Commission on Accreditation. Seventh-day Adventist accreditation organization. nadeducation.org



National Association for the Education of Young Children. National association of early childhood educators. Accredits preschool through third-grade programs, including childcare and before- and after-school programs. naeyc.org



National Lutheran School Accreditation. Nationwide accrediting body for Lutheran schools. lcms.org/schools



Western Association of Schools and Colleges. One of six regional accrediting associations for schools and colleges. WASC covers California, Hawai‘i, other Pacific Basin areas and East Asia. acswasc.org



Western Catholic Education Association. Accredits Hawai‘i Catholic Schools. westwcea.org


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