The Purpose of Accreditation
Accreditation is a term that originally meant trustworthiness in its middle French, Old Italian usage. The original purpose of accreditation in the United States was designed to encourage the standardization of secondary school programs, primarily to ensure for the benefit of colleges and universities that graduating students had mastered a particular body of knowledge. However, today the process developed by the Accrediting Commission for Schools, Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), involves a dual purpose that continues the expectation that schools must be worthy of the trust placed in them to provide high quality learning opportunities, but with the added requirement that they clearly demonstrate that they are about the critical business of continual self-improvement.
Ultimately, the accreditation process is all about fostering excellence in the elementary, secondary, adult, postsecondary and supplementary education programs we accredit. Our fundamental cause involves helping schools meaningfully create the highest quality learning experience they can envision for all students. It is WASC's consistent purpose to professionally support schools in creating for themselves a clear vision of what they desire their students to know and be able to do and then to ensure that efficient and relevant systems are in place that predictably result in the fulfillment of those expectations for every child.
The capacity of any organization to improve is directly related to its ability to recognize, acknowledge, and act on its identified strengths and limitations. The accreditation process is a vehicle that enables schools to improve student learning and school performance based on an analysis of those strengths and limitations. Participating schools must meet rigorous, research-based standards that reflect the essential elements of a quality and effective school, but again, must also be able to demonstrate engagement in as well as capacity to provide continuous school improvement.