Engaging in ongoing improvement

Since 1973 the Virginia Association of Independent Schools has been the leader in accreditation of Virginia’s independent schools. The VAIS evaluation and review process is authorized by the Virginia State Board of Education through its membership in the Virginia Council for Independent Schools (VCPE). VAIS also is recognized by the International Council Advancing Independent School Accreditation (ICAISA). VAIS has voluntarily and regularly submitted to a rigorous and impartial review of its accreditation program and demonstrated its adherence to ICAISA’s Criteria for Effective Independent School Accreditation Practices. VAIS is commended by ICAISA for the quality of the Association’s accreditation program for its Member Schools. The VAIS process of accreditation is based on a regular, professional peer assessment of the degree to which a member school supports its stated mission in a thoughtful, sustainable, and responsible manner. 

Beginning the accreditation cycle

VAIS accreditation is based on a regular, professional peer assessment of the degree to which the school supports its stated mission. Only applications from schools showing adherence to the VAIS Preliminary Criteria can move forward to consideration for membership. A school which decides to file an application will complete the appropriate forms, send the required documentation, and pay the established application fee to the VAIS office.

Once the application materials are complete, an introductory visit to the school will be conducted by the Director of Accreditation and an Accreditation Committee member. The purpose of this visit is to become better acquainted with the applicant and, in turn, for the school to become more familiar with the purposes of the Association, VAIS Standards for Membership, and the evaluation process in its entirety.

If the school and VAIS see fit to proceed with accreditation process, the VAIS Accreditation Committee will welcome the Head of School and Board Chair to its next meeting following the introductory visit. At this time the school will provide an overview of its mission and program and will make its case for VAIS accreditation. Upon weighing the application and the presentation, the Accreditation Committee then will make its recommendation for candidacy to the VAIS Board of Directors. The VAIS Board renders the final decision regarding acceptance of the candidate school.

Once accepted as a candidate, the school begins paying membership dues and participating in the process towards full accreditation. The Initial Evaluation, including a narrative self-study, documentation, published curriculum, a preliminary onsite visit, and a four-day onsite visit to the School, must occur within two to five years from the date of acceptance as a candidate. The timeline will be mutually agreed upon by the school and the Association.

At the conclusion of the evaluation process, the VAIS Accreditation Committee reviews the Visiting Team Report, hears from the Chair of the Visiting Team, and weighs any response from the School to the Visiting Team Report. The Committee then forwards its recommendation regarding accreditation to the VAIS Board of Directors for its action. The Board may grant a candidate school full accreditation, provisional accreditation, or deny accreditation.

If a candidate for membership is not approved for Full Accreditation or Provisional Accreditation by the VAIS Board of Directors, the candidate school may re-apply for membership no earlier than three years after denial or such time as is specified by the Board of Directors.