The fundamental principle underlying the PAIS accreditation process is that a school should be evaluated by the Association’s standards in light of the school’s own mission and philosophy.

PAIS requires each school to conduct an extensive Self Study, which is an extensive self-evaluation that applies PAIS standards and documents school programs and practice. The standards and criteria applied – and the procedures to be followed – are determined and published by the PAIS Board of Directors. A committee of peer professionals from other PAIS member schools is appointed to visit each Candidate school for three and one-half days to review the school’s Self Study and conduct its own evaluation. The Visiting Committee will then write a report that the Commission for Accreditation considers before making an accreditation recommendation to the PAIS Board of Directors for ratification.



  • The interested school applies and, if approved, is accepted as a PAIS Candidate.
  • An experienced PAIS member is assigned as Visiting Committee Chair.
  • The PAIS Director of Accreditation and Evaluation Chair communicate regularly with the Candidate School, providing necessary resources, support and guidance.
  • One to Two-Year Period
    • The Candidate School conducts its Self-Study.
    • Approximately one year in advance of the visitation, a date is set for the school’s on-site evaluation.
    • Six months in advance of the visitation, a Visiting Committee is formed.
    • Two months in advance of the visitation, the Candidate School submits its Self-Study to the PAIS Director of Accreditation and Visiting Committee Chair.
  • The Candidate School makes all arrangements for the visit, funding transportation, lodging, and meals for the members of the Visiting Committee.
  • Once the evaluative visit occurs, the Visiting Committee develops its report and submits the report to the PAIS Commission for Accreditation.
  • At a regularly scheduled meeting, the Commission reviews the report of the Visiting Committee and renders recommendation to either accredit or not accredit the school for ratification by the full PAIS Board of Directors
  • The PAIS Board of Directors then votes on the recommendation at its next scheduled meeting, which typically occur within a few months of the evaluative visit.

Each Candidate School’s visiting committee is comprised of experienced teachers and administrators from a variety of PAIS accredited member schools, representing peer professionals rather than individuals employed solely to assess schools. In assigning the committees to the Candidate Schools, PAIS considers the skills and experience of committee members, which best match the school’s needs.

By conducting evaluations by peer professionals who understand independent schools and their operations, PAIS commendations and recommendations are based on actual and achievable goals.

One year following the receipt of the Report of the Visiting Committee, the school files a plan for addressing recommendations contained in the Report with PAIS.

Five years after the full-scale evaluation, an Interim Evaluation is conducted. The school completes an abbreviated Self Study highlighting progress on the recommendations contained in the Report of the Visiting Committee, and a one-day visit is made by two professionals; a Commissioner and preferably a member of the full-scale Visiting Committee.

Full-scale evaluations with an on-site visit occur every ten years.

The Commission for Accreditation may require additional documentation and/or interim visits when the Commission or the PAIS Board has specific concerns and/or when a school changes location, offers additional age groupings or grade levels, or has major program changes.

Dual accreditation with Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, Association of Waldorf Schools of North America, and American Montessori Society is available and should be requested through the Executive Director of PAIS and the partnering association.

PAIS has no authority to accredit schools outside the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. However, a school seeking a comprehensive review may apply to PAIS and a limited number of out-of-state reviews are arranged each year. Such reviews can be useful in providing an objective and professional study. While no accreditation accompanies an out-of-state review, the requesting school will follow all PAIS evaluation protocols, submit a fee set by the PAIS Board of Directors, and receive the full Report of the Visiting Committee.