You may have heard the word “accreditation” buzzing around school. This year, our entire staff is engaged in the year-and-a-half long process of school accreditation. Becoming an accredited institution is a strategic goal set out by Mustard Seed’s Board of Trustees. It is a rigorous process and one that is well worth the effort.
What is accreditation?
Accreditation is an institutional self-examination process against a set of standards developed by the accrediting agency, in our case, the New Jersey Association of Independent Schools (NJAIS).
Why go through the work of accreditation? What are the benefits?
- The process of writing the Self-Study, evaluation by peer review, and follow-up is one way that schools strengthen themselves as they realize their mission;
- It provides school leaders with validation of current programs and services and suggested planning for future growth and development;
- It presents a school’s Board of Trustees an independent, non-governmental validation that the school they oversee is effectively delivering a quality educational experience to its students;
- It assures parents and the public that the school is focused on providing a safe and enriching learning environment while maintaining an efficient and effective operation;
- It provides a credential that is essential in corporate and foundation fundraising; and finally,
- An effective process of evaluation and accreditation brings credibility to Mustard Seed School, NJAIS and all of its members;
What is the accreditation process for Mustard Seed School through NJAIS?
You’ve already heard that everyone on staff is involved in the self-examination study. Every staff member sits on a committee. Each committee responds to the questions about the standards in their assigned section.
The major sections are:
- School and Community
- School Finance
- School Facilities/Safety/Equipment/Services
The work of the committees will result in a self-study document that is hundreds of pages long. Submitted over the summer, the document will be reviewed by NJAIS. Then next November, a team of staff members from peer schools will come for an on-site visit. As a result of the visit, the visiting team will provide MSS and the Accreditation Committee with observations, commendations, and recommendations from experienced outside educators.
Once MSS receives a comprehensive report and learns of our accreditation status, we will choose three or four overarching goals based on the recommendations of the committee.
As you can see, accreditation is a rigorous process. I am confident that Mustard Seed is ready for it. We have an excellent school. We are eager to share our practices with those outside of the Mustard Seed community. At the same time, we are grateful to receive advice on how to make our strong program even better. I’ll keep you apprised of our progress.
I have helped lead two schools through the accreditation process and seen how it has strengthened each school in living out its mission. The staff benefit too by seeing their work in the context of a bigger mission. I’ve often said that accreditation is one of the best opportunities for professional development available to a teacher.
About the New Jersey Association of Independent Schools
Mustard Seed School is a member of the New Jersey Association of Independent Schools (NJAIS). This organization includes schools across New Jersey like Mustard Seed and schools unlike Mustard Seed, schools that serve urban and suburban communities, religious schools and non-religious schools. The benefits of being a member have been many and include not only the accreditation process but also professional development opportunities for Mustard Seed staff (see the blog on the our teachers particpating at recent NJAIS conference at Liberty Science Center), a voice in the NJ State Legislature, and access to resources to help Mustard Seed improve.