Recognition Guiding Principles

The ICAISA Recognition Process is modeled after the accreditation process for schools. ICAISA maintains a set of Guiding Principles that serve as the foundation for the Recognition Process.

Recognition Guiding Principles
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Guiding Principles

  1. The association holds schools accountable to a comprehensive set of standards related to the educational program and issues of institutional health.
  2. The association, recognizing that accreditation is a peer review process, institutes policies and procedures that ensure fairness and impartiality and that are free of conflicts of interest, both in appearance and in fact.
  3. The accreditation process consists of a continuing cycle: self-study by the school, visit and report by a team of trained peers, action by the association, and follow-up by the school and the association.
  4. The association monitors the school’s compliance with standards and its progress in addressing the recommendations of the self-study and of the visiting team report. The association also regularly solicits reports from schools on substantive institutional change and reviews the school’s accreditation status in the light of those changes.
  5. The decision-making and appeal processes regarding accreditation status and /or changes in the accreditation cycle are clear and understandable. Policies and procedures are available for public review.
  6. The association offers formal and comprehensive preparation and training for all participants in the accreditation process, including team chairs and members, heads of school, self-study coordinators, and association boards and commissions.
  7. The association engages in regular evaluation and review of its standards and accreditation process and solicits reports from schools and visiting teams on their experience with the process.
  8. The association designates a decision-making body charged with overseeing the evaluation and accreditation process and making final decisions regarding accreditation.
  9. The accreditation process will examine the whole school, including all divisions and those programs that are included in the accreditation.
  10. The association has a procedure, available to the public and clearly explained, to handle complaints that accredited schools are not meeting standards.
  11. The accreditation process rests on comprehensive standards which schools must meet. The standards address all areas of school life, including the following: mission, governance, finance, program, community of the school, administration, development, admissions, personnel, general health and safety, child and student protection and well-being, facilities, student services, school culture, and residential life (where applicable).
  12. The standards require schools to conduct a thoughtful assessment of individual student progress consistent with the school’s mission.
  13. The standards require a school to provide evidence of a thoughtful process, respectful of its mission, for informed decision-making that draws on data (both internal and external) about student learning.
  14. The standards require a school to demonstrate that its educational programs, instructional practices, and institutional culture are informed by relevant research regarding how students learn and the knowledge and capacities they will need to lead purposeful and constructive lives.
  15. A broad cross-section of the community (including all faculty and staff, as well as members of the governing body and others in the community, as appropriate) participate in preparing the self-study.
  16. The self-study includes reflection and self-analysis as well as description, identifies strengths and weaknesses, assesses both the school’s compliance with standards and the congruence between its program and mission, and balances documentation of accountability to association standards with a focus on school improvement. The school will also provide all required documents in a timely fashion.
  17. The self-study process is deliberative, and the self-study report reflects the considered judgment of the school’s professional community.
  18. The accrediting association appoints a visiting team chair who shall be responsible to follow the accrediting association’s guidelines, to ensure the visiting team’s effectiveness, and to protect the integrity of the process.
  19. The accrediting association appoints a visiting team to conduct a site visit while school is in session.
  20. The association is mindful of the circumstances of the school and the full range of the standards in determining the size and selecting the members of a visiting team.
  21. The visiting team receives advance materials in a timely fashion and arrives at the school fully prepared.
  22. The team observes the program and interviews school staff, trustees and others as appropriate. It validates the self-study, evaluates the school’s compliance with standards, and writes a report with commendations and recommendations which is sent to the association and to the school in a timely fashion. The report is confidential, except as authorized by the school. Any release of parts or all of the report to the public must follow association guidelines.
  23. The length of the visit is sufficient to accomplish the above.
  24. The members of the visiting team hold confidential the information they receive and their discussions during the accreditation process.
  25. The association, or a representative committee, receives and reviews the self-study, and visiting team report, determines the accreditation status of the school, prescribes appropriate actions, and sets up a schedule for future reports and visits. The school is given an opportunity to respond to the report of the visiting committee in advance of the association taking action on its accreditation.
  26. The association notifies the board chair, as well as the head of school, concerning decisions related to a school’s accreditation.


Core Standards are those that define the culture of independent schools and relate directly to the first of the Criteria for Effective Independent School Accreditation Practices. While they do not serve as a template, these standards reflect the core elements of independent schools and their operation and should be represented in some form in an ICAISA-recognized association’s accreditation instrument.

  1. The school has a clear statement of educational mission. The stated mission and philosophy guide the school’s admissions, programming, planning, and decision-making.
  2. The mission of the school is congruent with principles of academic scholarship, permitting and encouraging freedom of inquiry, diversity of viewpoints, and independent and critical thinking.
  3. Full Disclosure
  4. The school makes full, accurate, and truthful disclosure of its mission, policies, expectations, programs, practices, school culture, finances, and governance structure.
  5. Governance and Fiscal Responsibility
  6. The governing board of the school is a deliberative body with clearly defined roles and responsibilities that are communicated to all constituents. It provides for:
    • Continuity of mission
    • Stability in transitions of leadership
    • Establishing and monitoring school policies and general programs
    • Comprehensive strategic and financial planning
    • Financial oversight, accountability, and sustainability
    • Policies related to pluralism, diversity, equity, and inclusion
    • Policies related to environmental sustainability
    • Risk management and school safety
    • Evaluation and support of the professional development of the head of school
    • Clearly-defined and regularly-applied procedures to orient, educate, and evaluate the governing body
    • A model of inclusive decision-making for the school community
  7. The governing body consistently exercises its fiduciary responsibility.
  8. The governing body engages an independent accounting firm to conduct an annual audit of the school’s financial statements and practices.
  9. The governing board provides opportunities for generative thinking on a regular basis.
  10. There is evidence of effective management of resources sufficient to advance the mission of the school, and to provide for financial sustainability.
  11. There are effective policies and procedures for the management of operating and capital funds in compliance with generally accepted accounting principles and practices.
  12. The governing body delegates the operational and educational functions of the school to the head of school.
  13. Program
  14. The educational program stems from the school’s beliefs about teaching and learning that are regularly reviewed and that are consistent with the mission of the school.
  15. All school programs (including early childhood, residential, extended care, etc.) demonstrate consideration for the well-being and the appropriate intellectual, social, physical, aesthetic, emotional, and ethical development of students in all aspects of school and student life.
  16. The school has sufficient resources to support the program of the school and the needs of the students and professional staff.
  17. Instructional materials, resources, equipment, and infrastructure are of sufficient quality, quantity, and variety to provide effective support to the goals and methods of the program.
  18. Requirements and expectations for students, parents, faculty, administrators, and staff, and trustees clearly reflect the values and mission of the school.
  19. Procedures are in place to assess individual student progress toward meeting the goals of the program, and to communicate progress effectively and appropriately to students and families.
  20. The school demonstrates that its educational programs, instructional practices, and institutional culture are informed by relevant research regarding how students learn and the knowledge and capacities they will need to lead purposeful, constructive, and ethical lives.
  21. Professional Staff
  22. Faculty and staff are well-qualified through education, training, and/or experience to fulfill the responsibilities of their positions.
  23. The school ensures that there are sufficient and trained administrators, faculty, and staff members dedicated to supporting students and their families across all cultures.
  24. The administration actively supports the professional development of faculty and staff through allocation of time and resources.
  25. The school implements clearly defined programs for supervision and regular performance evaluation of the administration, faculty, and staff.
  26. Personnel and human resources practices provide equitable and ethical treatment of all faculty, administrators, and staff with respect to compensation, workloads, and working conditions.
  27. Culture and Climate
  28. In keeping with its mission, the school promotes an equitable, just, and inclusive community of adults and students, fosters a culture of learning, and inspires students to respect and value diversity in its many forms.
  29. The school promotes environments that provide opportunities to enhance positive interaction among domestic and international students, and to develop sensitivity and understanding regarding cultural differences and needs that are specific to international students.
  30. The school recognizes global connectedness, promotes a culture of global understanding, and fosters a commitment to the values of environmental sustainability for current and future generations.
  31. Health, Safety, and Well-Being
  32. The school has a process to ensure that it demonstrates compliance with all state, local, and federal regulations.
  33. The school ensures that it provides appropriate care, support, and protection of all students, including attention to their health, safety, and well-being.
  34. The school ensures that boarding personnel and/or homestay host families receive specific training, supervision, and evaluation that address the needs of boarding and/or international students.
  35. Recruitment, Admission, Enrollment, and Retention
  36. The school has mission-aligned procedures in place to ensure that students can be well-served by the school programs.
  37. The school is transparent in its admission and retention policies and provides information that accurately describes tuition levels, fees, and all other expectations.
Association Capacity to Articulate Purpose and Value of the Association’s Accreditation

Working together, the Board and Executive Director articulate and promote the purposes and value of the association’s accreditation program.

Association Capacity to Assess the Strategic Environment

There is an ongoing process that enables association leaders to assess the evolving educational, environmental, financial, cultural, and other strategic landscapes, and the needs of member schools.

Association Capacity to Align Needs and Resources

Association leadership resources are aligned to address emerging issues and the changing needs of member schools as they relate to the accreditation process.

Association Capacity to Evaluate and Adapt the Accreditation Process

The association adapts its accreditation process as necessary in order to a) maintain high standards, b) remain relevant in a changing world, and c) respond to the emerging needs of member schools.

Become a Member

ICAISA offers several membership options including full membership and associate membership. ICAISA also offers sponsorship opportunities. Join us today!

As a Head of School, I believe strongly in the accreditation process which helps us improve our mission critical work with students and families. ICAISA sets the international standards for school accreditation at a very high level and our schools and students benefit as a result.

– MO Copeland, Head of School, Oregon Episcopal School