For over a year and a half, the school has been engaged in the process of seeking accreditation. It’s been an enormous and rigorous undertaking. One that has involved the entire staff, board members, parents, and others. But it’s well worth the effort.
Now we’ve reached one of the final steps: welcoming a visiting team from peer schools for an on-site visit. After school on Tuesday (Nov. 3), a visiting team of six educators from schools in the New Jersey Association of Independent Schools (NJAIS) will arrive. And we are ready!
During their three-day visit, the visiting team will observe the school in action, meet with different constituents, and evaluate the school. As a result of the visit, the visiting team will provide MSS and the NJAIS Accreditation Committee with observations, commendations, and recommendations.
What is accreditation?
Accreditation is an institutional self-examination process against a set of standards developed by the accrediting agency, in our case, 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.
I’ve 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.
What is the accreditation process for Mustard Seed School through NJAIS?
The entire staff was involved in a self-examination study. Every staff member has been part of a committee. Each committee responded to the questions about the standards in their assigned section.
The major sections included:
- School and Community
- School Finance
- School Facilities/Safety/Equipment/Services
The work of the committees resulted in a self-study document over 200 pages long. We submitted the document to NJAIS over the summer. And we’ve continued to meet in our committees to prepare for the on-site visit. Within six months of the visit, NJAIS will present us with a comprehensive report and advise us of our accreditation status.
Based on the recommendations in the report, we’ll choose three or four overarching goals for our school as we move forward. These recommendations will help us with strategic planning.
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’re grateful to receive advice on how to make our strong program even better.
I’ll keep you apprised of our progress!
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 are many and include not only the accreditation process but also professional development opportunities for Mustard Seed staff, a voice in the NJ State Legislature, and access to resources to help Mustard Seed improve.