2016 Hawai‘i Private School Guide
(page 11 of 18)
What Does Accreditation Mean for Your Child?
More than seals and acronyms, accreditation is an important factor in choosing the right school.
“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 new executive director of HAIS Robert Landau, who has worked around the world in accreditation since 1981. “To be honest, there are excellent schools that are not accredited, but I am a strong believer in the process and think accreditation is an important indicator of excellence,” he says.
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, curricula, health, safety, governance and finances.
This is no one-time exam. Rather, “accreditation implies a school wants to know where it can improve, what areas are in need of strengthening. Accreditation is a journey that never ends,” says Landau, “so, every few years, the school is required to provide updated information, respond to previous recommendations and demonstrate a strategic approach to the school’s development.”
A seal of accreditation signifies an examination of the comprehensive educational experience at a school. “I have seen many agencies move from more of a 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 application 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, here’s a list of primary ones:
AACS: American Association of Christian Schools. National Christian accreditation body with member schools in all but four states. aacs.org
ACSI: 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
AMS: American Montessori Society. amshq.org
AWSNA: Association of Waldorf Schools of North America. whywaldorfworks.org
HAIS: Hawai‘i Association of Independent Schools. Local umbrella organization that is part of the National Association of Independent Schools. hais.org
NADCA: North American Division Commission on Accreditation. Seventh-day Adventist accreditation organization. nadeducation.org
NAEYC: 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
NLSA: National Lutheran School Accreditation. Nationwide accrediting body for Lutheran schools.
WASC: 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
WCEA: Western Catholic Education Association. Accredits Hawai‘i Catholic schools. westwcea.org