The CAIS for Accreditation

Michael Simmonds, our new Accreditation and Professional Development Director, and I are currently attending the NAIS International Commission on Accreditation Meetings in Maryland. Yesterday’s session was on, “Why Accreditation Matters”.

And our timing couldn’t be more perfect.

Our national organization announces today that we will change our official name from SEAL Canada to Canadian Accredited Independent Schools (CAIS). We have announced this change in a letter to Heads and a press release to over 150 contacts around the world.  This change was made in response to an overwhelming vote by our member schools.  I am proud to report that we had 100% participation rate in this process, and this level of participation represents the kind of engagement that will continue to take our national organization forward.

Through this lengthy process, we have considered the question: why is it important for the word Accreditation to appear in our new name?

At the Commission meetings, we discussed the public and private purpose of accreditation.

Publicly, accreditation provides the seal of approval for parents who are looking to understand what distinguishes one school from another.  In a country where education is provincially mandated, participating in a voluntary process of meeting National Standards provides public accountability. Our National Standards are based on research, developed by our members, vetted by the Standards Council of the Board and recognized by the NAIS International Commission on Accreditation.

Privately, the core of an accreditation process is really about improvement, and this begins with knowing your school, reflecting on strengths and weaknesses, being confident and transparent enough to share this with a group of peers from across Canada, and then implementing priorities.

I find it interesting to consider the balance of importance between the public and private purpose of accreditation.  But I’m not fussed over which is more valuable (to my American colleagues, ‘fussed’ means ‘overly concerned’). I actually find the debate similar to the one about which aspect of the accreditation process is more important – the internal evaluation review or the Visiting Committee’s external visit.

I often think of the total value of accreditation this way – I clean my house but I clean it better when company is coming (I can just hear my husband chuckling at that statement ‘I clean my house’).  Maybe that public purpose contributes to improving our private practice.

But what makes me proud is that in our new name, we are making a public commitment to genuine improvement.

Currently, approximately one in ten Canadian independent schools is a CAIS member.  I love that our schools across the country share a philosophy that learning never ends and the pursuit of excellence is ongoing.

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