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 such as the development officers conducted their own annual meetings. 

The accreditation of independent and other private schools was initially overseen by the Virginia State Department of Education. By July 1, 1987, the State authorized 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.

In 2007, VAIS voluntarily submitted to a rigorous and impartial review of its accreditation program by the NAIS Commission on Accreditation and demonstrated its adherence to the Criteria for Effective Independent School Accreditation Practices.  To this day, the National Association of Independent Schools, through its Commission on Accreditation, commends and confirms its confidence in the quality of VAIS’s accreditation program for its independent schools.

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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