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How to Apply for PAIS Accreditation

What are the criteria for PAIS candidacy?
What are the steps to become a formal candidate for PAIS accreditation and membership?
After your application is received
If your school is approved as a candidate for PAIS accreditation and membership

What are the criteria for PAIS candidacy?

Prior to submitting an application to become a formal PAIS candidate for accreditation and membership, school leadership must establish that the school:

  • Is academic in its mission.
  • Is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization.
  • Is licensed by, and operates under the guidance of, the Pennsylvania Department of Education for at least three (3) continuous years.
  • Has a written policy of non-discrimination.
  • Conducts an annual certified independent audit that includes an auditor's opinion letter.

The school must be prepared to undertake an intensive Self Study.

  • During the Self Study the school will evaluate itself using the PAIS evaluative standards and develop written descriptions of the school's programs and practices.
  • Using the PAIS standards, the school evaluates itself in light of its own distinctive mission and philosophy: Is our school community doing what we say and think we do?
  • Most schools find this a highly beneficial process that elevates the school's success in achieving its mission and philosophy.

PAIS does not evaluate and accredit the following types of private schools: Non-academic schools; Schools for adjudicated children; Special-education schools; for-profit schools.

What are the steps to become a formal candidate for PAIS accreditation and membership?

The steps for a school to pursue PAIS accreditation and membership are as follows:

  1. Confirm that your school meets the above criteria.
  2. Review PAIS Accreditation, Standards for Accreditation and Evaluation Process on this website.
  3. Contact the PAIS Executive Director, Gary J. Niels, at 610-567-2960 or to discuss the PAIS accreditation process and your school.
  4. Review findings with your school's leadership (administration and Board); confirm that your school's leadership chooses to undertake the PAIS accreditation process.
  5. Request that a member of the Board of Directors to visit your school.
  6. Download the PAIS Application. Submit the completed application, non-refundable application fee and all required attachments and documentation to the PAIS office.

After your application is received:

At a regularly scheduled meeting, the Board of Directors will review the application, documentation, and comments of visiting Commissioner(s). The Commission will approve/disapprove the school and will recommend the decision for formal candidacy to the PAIS Board for ratification.

If your school is approved as a candidate for PAIS accreditation and membership:

The school will begin the Self Study process. The head of one of the PAIS member schools will be appointed to Chair the evaluation process. The Chair will communicate with the candidate school during the Self Study, oversee a three and one-half day onsite evaluation by a Visiting Evaluation Committee, oversee preparation of a formal report and present the Visiting Evaluation Committee's recommendations to the PAIS Commission for Accreditation.

See Evaluation Process for information on the evaluation process that takes place once your school is approved as a PAIS candidate.


Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools (PAIS) • 37 East Germantown Pike, Suite 302 • Plymouth Meeting, PA 19462
610-567-2960 • Fax 610-567-2963


PAIS is an equal opportunity employer. PAIS and its member schools comply with all applicable laws and regulations regarding discrimination in admissions and employment.
PAIS is recognized by the Pennsylvania Department of Education to accredit private schools in the State of Pennsylvania.
PAIS is internationally recognized through the International Council Advancing Independent School Accreditation (ICAISA) Commission on Accreditation.

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