The Virginia Association of Independent Schools (VAIS) was established in Charlottesville on April 30, 1973. Forty-four member schools and eight provisional members assembled through the merger of the Virginia Association of Preparatory Schools and the Virginia Association of Independent Elementary Schools.

VAIS is a non-profit, voluntary membership association of schools that share compatible philosophies and goals. As a service organization that promotes educational, ethical and professional excellence, its purposes remain:

  • to promote the well-being of and public regard for independent schools in the Commonwealth of Virginia
  • to safeguard the interests of these schools in matters of legislation and regulation
  • to act as an evaluating and accrediting organization for independent schools in Virginia
  • to foster mutually beneficial relations with the Virginia State Department of Education, the Virginia Council for Private Education, and other educational agencies
  • to assist member schools in maintaining standards of excellence
  • to encourage activities and to exchange information about new methodologies and practices
  • to promote community service and leadership

Prior to the founding of VAIS, a small number of independent school headmasters, known as “The Baker’s Dozen” met informally to discuss current educational issues, and the teachers of several independent schools planned “Virginia Independent Schools Subject Matter Conferences." In 1966 the “Teachers’ Conference” welcomed over 200 educators. In addition, key administrators, including development officers, conducted their own annual meetings. 

The Virginia State Department of Education initially oversaw the accreditation of independent and other private schools. By July 1, 1987, the State authorized the oversight of the accreditation of nonpublic pre-school, elementary, and secondary schools by the Virginia Council for Private Education (VCPE). (22.1-19 of the Code of Virginia)The Virginia Association of Independent Schools is a fully Approved Accrediting Member of VCPE and, therefore, recognized by the State of Virginia to accredit Virginia’s independent schools.

The Virginia Association of Independent Schools 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 the Council’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.

ICAISA was originally convened as the NAIS Commission on Accreditation in 2002 in response to a request from independent school accrediting associations to address emerging national and state accreditation issues. VAIS Executive Director Sally Boese was instrumental in the Commission’s founding and leadership, and NAIS leaders and staff provided significant assistance to support the Commission’s mission and work. Both NAIS and the Commission aspired to strengthen their positions on student learning outcomes and school accountability, to improve the independent school accreditation process, and to establish widespread recognition of their member schools’’ accreditation. The Commission, importantly, developed the Criteria for Effective Independent School Accreditation Practices. After a decade of significant accomplishments, the Commission was sunset by the NAIS Board in June 2018 in order to pave the way for ICAISA to independently and effectively fulfill its mission as an international authority on independent school accreditation.

Membership in and influence of VAIS has grown steadily over the years. Through the commitment and engagement of its member schools, the Association continues to connect, collaborate, and lead.

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