Frequently Asked Accreditation Questions

General Questions

Where can I find out Virginia’s laws pertaining to independent schools?
The Virginia Council for Private Education, VCPE, produces an annual guide with updated information regarding private schools. You should contact VCPE to receive a copy of the latest guide.

What’s the distinction between a school’s mission, philosophy, and objectives?
Here’s one way to think about it:  
Mission answers the question “Why are we here?”
Philosophy answers the question “What do we believe about education?”
Objectives tell what you will do to accomplish the mission in keeping with your philosophy.

How much should we budget for an evaluation visit?

VAIS offers budget considerations in the guidelines for the initial/ten-year and interim visits. It’s hard to give an estimate since hospitality costs vary so much across the Commonwealth. But, the cost of hospitality is probably one of the key factors to consider: while you want to take good care of your visiting team, it is never the intent of VAIS to break the school’s budget to do so. In fact, we are working hard to decrease the size of visiting teams and compress their work to help decrease costs for schools. Costs of printed materials for the visiting team have also decreased since we want schools to send an electronic vs. printed curricula to each team member. 

Retention & Student Transcripts

What’s the latest thinking on records retention?
VAIS Standards related to records retention state the following: "The school maintains sufficient and accurate records for staff members, students, and graduates." and “These records are protected against loss by fire or theft and are available only to authorized persons."

Many schools interpret this as meaning that they must purchase the fire-proof cabinets. That's not necessarily the best answer, especially in view of the advances in technology that provide for electronic storage. Off-site back-up of records is a terrific strategy as well. Policies for who may access records are important for the school to establish, and how/where they may be accessed.

Each school is also required to provide protection of records into perpetuity. Typically, schools will enter into a mutual agreement to protect each other’s records. This agreement should be recorded in writing and be signed by each Head of School. The VAIS office maintains a file of those agreements.

What is required in a student transcript?
An official transcript should contain the students’ name, dates of attendance (example: September, 1983-June 1987), and any courses taken and grades received. Any information that is retained beyond that is up to the school. It is recommended that the school set a policy, record that policy, and stick to it!

Certification Questions

Will I receive re-certification points for my work in accreditation?
Yes. If you serve on a Ten Year accreditation Visiting Team, you can earn 90 points for re-certification. You can contact the VAIS office to ask for verification of your service on a team if you need documentation. Any points that you might earn while working on your own school’s self-study must be verified by your Head of School.

Do teachers have to be certified to work in a VAIS school?
VAIS does not require that its schools employ certified teachers. However, some schools do have policies that require their teachers to be licensed. The Virginia Department of Education is the authority on teacher certification in Virginia, and those requirements can be found online here. VAIS does have a related Standard for Membership that should be considered: “Faculty and administration are qualified for their position and responsibilities by education and/or experience.”
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