Accredited Christian schools – A brief overview of what you need to know about accreditation for your child’s K-12 education.
What is Accreditation?
More specifically, what do we need to know about accredited Christian schools? Accreditation is one of the more difficult concepts to understand, yet is in all our vocabularies! Technically, accreditation is not required for a K-12 school or homeschool in most states to operate. Even some situations where it is required, organizations can claim a religious exemption.
Accredited Christian schools or programs are peer reviewed from outside their organizations by educators. An accredited Christian schools have basically had an audit of educational and organizational practices, structure, procedures, and tools. Most accrediting bodies first require a school to submit a self-evaluation report covering how they meet lengthy and detailed requirements for accreditation. They also need to submit curriculum. Then an educational team will visit the school to evaluate the school over one or two days. Accredited Christian schools must report school changes to the accrediting body between visits. Annual information and documentation is sent to the accrediting body by the school.
A team visit to re-evaluate is normally required every five years or less. Schools that have not had their site visit (review) are often considered in an “applicant status”. Sometimes a school will have “candidate status” the first year after the initial site review. Normally, a school that has met all requirements and is in good standing will be considered “fully accredited”. The school is responsible for annual accreditation fees, membership fees, and travel costs for all team or consultation visits.
The first and foremost reason is so prospective families know the Christian school or homeschool program has been thoroughly audited, reviewed, or evaluated to surpass minimum requirements for important components of a quality school or educational program. Most quality accreditations ensure the curriculum follows basic educational standards. They may also check to see if the curriculum reviews or spirals concepts sufficiently. Some accreditations require reporting of school or program averages from standardized testing.
Another key benefit is so other people or organizations know the student completed a quality educational program.
What are the different types of accreditation?
There are several types of accrediting agencies or associations for K-12. You will find the links to a majority of K-12 associations below. If you know a school’s advertised accreditation affiliation, you can visit the site and check to see the school’s current accreditation status.
Regional Accrediting Associations
They are officially recognized by many state governments. These are not recognized by the USDE for K-12, but are recognized by the USDE for postsecondary or higher education. The USDE does not recognize any K-12 accrediting associations.
- AdvancEd Joint K12 School Status Search for the Following Accreditations
- Middle States Association
- New England Association
- North Central Association
- Southern Association
- Western Association
Many people have the perspective (or attitude) that only accrediting agencies recognized by the Department of Education can offer the word “accredited”. However, the USDE does NOT recognize any accrediting associations for K-12. The confusion comes from the topic of higher or postsecondary education accreditation, where non-religious professional degrees or certifications are involved.
The outcry over non-USDE recognized accreditations taints the image of many accrediting agencies for K-12, because they cannot not be found to be recognized by the USDE. The Department of Education (USDE) officially recognizes five regional accrediting associations (listed above) for higher or postsecondary education. These same regional accrediting associations do offer K-12 accreditations, even though they are not recognized by the USDE for K-12 accreditation. When unsuspecting parents search for a list of USDE recognized accrediting associations, they usually find these regional associations listed for higher education and assume they are also recognized for K-12.
Still, some feel these five regional accreditations for K-12 above carry more weight than other associations, because states that have a recognized accrediting association list for K-12 normally include these. Some K-12 schools feel these accreditations may eventually give an opportunity to develop high school college courses.
The USDE does recognize some postsecondary or higher education religious accrediting agencies, because many religious schools offer liberal arts or professional degrees. Some Bible colleges and seminaries pursue a USDE recognized accreditation because it allows them to offer Federal financial aid programs.
State Recognized Accrediting Associations
Some states such as Kansas have a recognized accrediting association list for primary and secondary schools. Most states include the five regional associations above, plus some from the lists below. They sometimes include agencies that offer an accredited status for independent or religious schools. High school credit transfer is a primary reason for a state to have a recognized accrediting association list. We hope to have a state by state list of this information on the State Testing and Registration Requirements in the near future.
Most homeschool families do not intend on going back to a public school. However, some families do just that. Most of the time, there is no problem before 10th grade if good academic records are kept. One area that can pose a problem is after 9th grade. Some school districts around the United States have policies where they will only accept high school course credit from school accreditations recognized by the state. For example, a family desires to have their student go to the local high school for the last year or two of school. The school district policy may not allow the previous high school credits, and will only offer to allow the student enrollment at 9th grade level. This same situation can happen for Christian school credits being transferred to a public school. Even if you fight to win this battle, it will likely take an enormous amount of time and possibly some legal assistance.
You may want to check your state’s Department of Education website to see if they have a list of recognized accreditations, so you can see if the homeschool program you are considering has one of those accreditations. Otherwise, a school or program that is accredited by one of the regional accreditations above may be the best route, since most states recognize them.
Some Christian schools and homeschool programs do not pursue secular accreditations even though they might qualify. However, there are several “non-governmental”, Christian accrediting agencies for peer review and accountability. Some states recognize them. Along with academic review, they review important areas that a secular accreditation does not. Some online Christian schools elect to have dual accreditations to have a secular accreditation for nationwide strength, plus a Christian accreditation for spiritual accountability and additional academic accountability.
Religious Accrediting Associations
Many are of these are officially recognized in some states, but not by the USDE.
- Accrediting Association of Seventh-day Adventist schools, colleges and universities (North America Division)
- Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI)
- Association of Christian Teachers and Schools Assembly of God (ACTS)
- American Association of Christian Schools (AACS)
- Christian Schools International (CSI)
- Florida Coalition of Christian Private School Accreditation (FCCPSA)
- International Christian Accrediting Association
- Montessori School Accreditation Commission
- National Association of Private Schools (NAPS)
- National Christian School Association
- National Independent Private Schools Association
- National Lutheran School Accreditation (NLSA)
- Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod School Accreditation (WELSSA)
Independent Accrediting Associations
These are officially recognized by some state governments, but not by the USDE.
- Association of Independent Schools of New England
- Independent Schools Association of the Central States
- Independent Schools Association of the Southwest
- Pacific Northwest Association of Independent Schools
- Southern Association of Independent Schools
We are constantly expanding our content, so please check back!
Quick checklist of benefits to look for in accredited Christian schools or homeschool programs:
1. Accredited and has a school number for college entrance exams and FAFSA.
2. At least 13 years of experience.
3. Multiple curriculum formats in case of a need to switch formats for success.
4. They offer standardized achievement testing.
5. They keep quality student records or cumulative folders.
6. They offer academic support options, especially for higher grade levels.
7. They are a larger program or school, unless you personally know families in the program that can offer their evaluation.
Here is an example that meets the above checklist: