School Accreditation

Charles H. Skipper

in Education

ISBN: 9780199756810
Published online May 2014 | | DOI:
School Accreditation

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  • Education
  • Organization and Management of Education
  • Philosophy and Theory of Education
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  • Teaching Skills and Techniques


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School and university accreditation is an evaluative decision made by a recognized accrediting agency/institution that a particular school or university or specialized program complies with the standards of membership of the accrediting body. Accreditation is valued by schools and colleges because it serves as quality-control mechanisms for education, signals high quality to the public and public authorities, ensures even-handed treatment of transfer students between schools or colleges, and is used as an eligibility criterion by public authorities and others in awarding grants or other financial support, including student aid/loans. Accreditation is in a period of evolution. It is shifting from an emphasis on quality assurance through standards compliance (an “inputs” approach based on measurable elements, such as the number of books, or teacher credentials), to an approach based on continuous-improvement models adapted from the business world—to demonstrate high quality through accountability and performance-based results (an “outputs” approach). Accreditation agencies and processes are also evolving in light of globalization, market-based opportunities, and the growth of online educational programs. Despite the ubiquity of accreditation as a feature of the educational landscape in the United States, and the world, scholarly interest and research on the subject are modest. Information on accreditation in the form of guidelines and explications of processes produced by accrediting agencies or their apologists are voluminous. Accreditation began as a self-referential process, and current policies and practices emerged organically. To date, accreditation procedures are not based on fundamental research warranting any particular practice. The field also lacks a research-based understanding of accreditation as a social activity. Knowledge of the nature of educational quality was assumed to exist within the schools and colleges whose leaders created accrediting practice by identifying and codifying valued ideas or practices of the best schools or colleges. Early accrediting efforts began with a focus limited to discernment and description of the elements of the best schools (standards), creating rational systems to evaluate the fitness of schools or colleges that aspire to share the high quality of those best schools (accreditation agencies and processes), and marketing the effort to build the brand of accrediting as high quality for internal (schools and colleges) and external (public and governmental) audiences. Although accreditation was not conceived of as a part of a larger research-based endeavor, scholarship in educational evaluation and adult learning can be fruitfully mined to enlarge our understanding of accreditation.

Article.  10966 words. 

Subjects: Education ; Organization and Management of Education ; Philosophy and Theory of Education ; Schools Studies ; Teaching Skills and Techniques

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