The Accrediting Commission for Schools, Western Association of Schools and Colleges (ACS WASC), a world-renowned accrediting association and one of the six regional accrediting agencies in the United States, works closely with the Office of Overseas Schools under the U.S. Department of State. ACS WASC provides assistance to schools worldwide, primarily in California, Hawaii, Guam, Asia, the Pacific Region, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe.
The Accrediting Commission for Schools, WASC, extends its services to over 5,000 public, independent, church-related, and proprietary pre-K–12 and adult schools, works with 18 associations in joint accreditation processes, and collaborates with other organizations such as the California Department of Education (CDE). CDE has collaborated with ACS WASC in order to align the accreditation process with the planning process for California public schools required by state and federal statues in the Single Plan for Student Achievement (SPSA) and the Local Control Accountability Plan; the ACS WASC/CDE Focus on Learning (FOL) Joint Process Guide is the collaborative process that helps schools identify and implement school improvement needs and supports accountability. Another example is the partnership with the University of California regarding the a-g course requirements.
The ACS WASC Commission is composed of 32 representatives from the educational organizations that it serves; this includes representatives from the Association of California School Administrators, Association of Christian Schools International, California Department of Education, California School Boards Association, California Charter Schools, California Teachers Association, California Federation of Teachers, East Asia Regional Council of Schools, Hawaii State Department of Education, National Lutheran School Accreditation, Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, and the Western Catholic Educational Association.
ACS WASC Philosophy
The philosophy of the Accrediting Commission for Schools centers upon three beliefs: (1) a school’s goal is successful student learning; (2) each school has a clear purpose and schoolwide student goals; and (3) a school engages in external and internal evaluations as part of continued school improvement to support student learning.
Accreditation is integral to a school’s perpetual cycle of assessment, planning, implementation, monitoring, and reassessment based upon student achievement. It fosters excellence in elementary, secondary, adult, and postsecondary education by encouraging school improvement through a process of continuing evaluation and to recognize, by accreditation, schools that meet an acceptable level of quality in accordance with established criteria. In addition to its official title, WASC also means We Are Student-Centered.
- Assures a school community that the school’s purposes are appropriate and being accomplished through a viable education program — a trustworthy institution for student learning
- Validates the integrity of the school’s program and transcripts
- Facilitates transfer of credits to other English-speaking schools — critical for college/university acceptance worldwide
- Fosters the ongoing improvement of the school’s programs and operations to support student learning
- Provides valuable insight from fellow educators visiting the school
- Benefits schools that choose joint accreditation or other collaborative processes, e.g., ACS WASC/CDE.
ACS WASC Accreditation Process
Initial Visit Process
- The purpose of the one- or two-day visit by a two-member team is to understand the school’s purpose, its program, and operations based upon the ACS WASC criteria and detailed school description.
- If the Commission grants initial accreditation or candidacy, the school addresses recommendations from the visiting committee report and completes first full self-study by the end of the third year.
Self-Study Process/Full Visit
- Involvement of all stakeholders in the self-study process.
- Clarification of the school’s purpose and the schoolwide learner outcomes.
- Assessment of the student program and its impact on student learning with respect to the ACS WASC criteria.
- Development of a schoolwide action plan that addresses identified areas for improvement.
- Visiting committee validation and enhancement based on accreditation criteria and standards, self-study, and findings from the visit.
- Annual assessment of the action plan progress and refinement of the plan as needed.
- Completion of progress reports and/or reviews, e.g., annual reports.
- Celebration of success.