By Doug Reynolds, Head of School
Clapham recently submitted our application to ISACS (Independent School Association of the Central States). We are pleased to announce that their board not only approved our application but noted that it was the most organized and well-presented that they have ever received! We have begun work on accreditation with several teams in these early stages. The overall effort is being chaired by Christine Escareno and Julie Reynolds and will last for the next 2-3 years. So, what is accreditation and what are the benefits to Clapham for pursuing it through ISACS?
What is accreditation?
This is a 3-4 year process with ISACS that should culminate in formal approval of Clapham as an accredited school. The four years constitute the following:
- Year One (2010-2011) – Constituent Survey, Prepare for Self Study (Internal Teams evaluating various parts of school)
- Year Two (2011-2012) – Self Study
- Year Three (2012-2013) – Self Study report written; Evaluation visit by an accreditation team
- Year Four (2013-2014) – ISACS board approval
What exactly does this process look like? We have already embarked upon preparations for our “self-study” in the spring of 2011. This will begin with a constituent survey of parents, students, and staff. We will also form various committees from faculty, board members, parents, and even students. These committees will generate reports for different areas of the school. The purpose of the self-study is to strengthen the school, and it will take over a year to finish. Once this is complete, we will be visited by an accreditation team in 2013. This team will determine our accreditation status.
Who is ISACS and why pursue accreditation through this organization?
ISACS is the Independent School Association of the Central States. It covers 12 Midwestern states and its membership is comprised of the very best private schools in those states. Several that you may recognize in Chicago are The Latin School, Avery Coonley, Francis Parker, and University of Chicago Lab Schools. The standards that ISACS uses for formal accreditation are perceived across the country as the most robust, which is why we chose them over several other options. Additionally, most of our own sister schools, such as The Wilberforce School in Princeton, NJ, Heritage Preparatory in Atlanta, and The Oaks in Indianapolis have or are pursuing accreditation through ISACS or the equivalent regional organization. In short, working with ISACS will make us a better school.
What are the benefits to Clapham pursuing accreditation?
The overall benefit to our school is that we have a nationally recognized group that will hold us accountable to delivering on what we say we do. ISACS calls this “congruence”; they will review our policies, procedures, and curriculum and verify that what exists in practice is what we have articulated on paper. An example of this would be our vision “to propel students for a life of service to Christ.” ISACS will evaluate how, in practice, that vision is fulfilled in and throughout the school. They will want to see us reading Scripture, serving others inside and outside the school, and talking about service in a variety of settings like Mr. Levering is doing during this current chapel series.
Accreditation communicates to those outside of Clapham, such as universities, prospective families, and future teachers, that we are accountable to certain academic standards. By the time we are fully accredited, we will have complied with fifty-two standards, ranging from adequate admission practices to robust curriculum development to proper frameworks for board governance.
A further benefit of accreditation is that it will strengthen our school. As I have outlined above, the initial accrediting process is intensive. Furthermore, upon receiving our ISACS accreditation, Clapham will be required to complete this same self-study process every seven years. We see this as a very good thing. Built into this process is the chance to look in depth at our school and identify areas that need attention and growth. The process is not just about proving our compliance, but it is also about improving our school.
In short, we will be accredited by an organization that will not only assure the congruence of our Christian mission, but also hold us to the highest standards of academic excellence. Our peer group is not other local private or public schools, but the best schools in the country. Accreditation assures those outside of our school that good things are happening within the school. We look forward to sharing more with you as this process unfolds.