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. The standards and criteria applied and the procedures to be followed are determined by the PAIS Board of Directors and are published. A committee of peer professionals from other member schools is appointed to visit each school for three and one-half days to review the school’s Self Study and conduct its own evaluation. The visiting committee writes a report that the Commission for Accreditation considers before making the accreditation recommendation to the PAIS Board of Directors for ratification.
Steps and Timetable
- The school applies and is accepted as PAIS candidate (see How to Apply)
- Experienced PAIS member is assigned as Chair of the evaluation. PAIS Executive Director and evaluation Chair communicate with school and provide necessary written materials.
- Over a one to two-year period, the candidate school conducts its Self Study, an extensive self-evaluation that applies PAIS standards and documents school programs and practices.
- Approximately one year in advance, a date is set for the school’s onsite evaluation.
- One to three months in advance, the school submits its Self Study Report to the PAIS office and committee Chair. A Visiting Evaluation Committee is formed. The school makes arrangements for and funds transportation, lodging, and meals for the members of the visiting committee.
- The three and one-half day evaluative visit takes place.
- The Visiting Evaluation 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 committee Chair and renders a decision to recommend to accredit or not accredit the school for ratification by the full Board of Directors of PAIS at its next scheduled meeting. These meetings are usually within a few months of the evaluative visit.
Peer Evaluation Committees
Each school’s evaluation committee is made up of experienced teachers and administrators from PAIS accredited member schools; in other words, committees are comprised of peer professionals rather than individuals employed solely to assess schools. Because each PAIS evaluation is conducted by peer professionals who understand independent schools and their operation, PAIS commendations and recommendations are based on actual and achievable goals.
Evaluation committees typically include teachers and administrators from a variety of schools, and the skills and experience of committee members are matched to the school’s needs.
Full-scale evaluations with an on-site visit occur every ten years. The school community completes an extensive Self Study that is followed by a three and one-half day onsite evaluation by a Visiting Committee made up of professional peers.
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 the PAIS office.
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; one a Commissioner and one other person selected by the Executive Director.
The Commission for Accreditation may require additional documentation and/or interim revisits when the Commission or the PAIS Board has specific concerns or when a school changes location, offers additional age groupings or grade levels, or has major program changes.
Joint accreditation with the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools is available and should be requested through the Executive Director of PAIS and the Middle States Association.
PAIS has no authority to accredit schools outside the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. However, a school seeking a comprehensive review may apply to PAIS; a limited number of out-of-state reviews are arranged each year. Such Review is useful in providing an objective and professional study. No accreditation accompanies an out-of-state Review; the school will follow all PAIS evaluation protocols, will submit a fee set by the PAIS Board of Directors, and will receive the full Report of the Visiting Committee.