When a student completes coursework at an accredited school, those credits are transferrable to any other high school in the country. Especially for Shelterwood students, many of whom return to a home high school or continue on to higher education, accreditation makes all the difference. As Shelterwood Academy marks 20 years of accreditation, we explore why this is such a significant distinction.
Accreditation, explains Shelterwood Principal John Lawrence, is validation of Shelterwood’s academic program to any other educational organization. “Accreditation legitimizes what we’re doing here. AdvancedED is the governing body that backs us, saying our credits are valid and should be accepted elsewhere,” he says.
AdvancED (formerly North Central), with more than 100 years of work in school accreditation, AdvancED is unique in its commitment to not only certify a program, but help schools improve. In the accreditation assessment, Shelterwood was described as exceptional in our demonstration of standards, and exhibiting practices not commonly found in other schools.
Shelterwood was first accredited in 1996, John says. While the school is formally evaluated every five years, the AdvancED accreditation process is ongoing and improvement is continuous. “This is all about making changes to benefit students and always improve how we are educating them,” John says.
The accreditation process focuses on five key standards: purpose and direction, governance and leadership, teaching and assessing for learning, resources and support systems and using results for continuous improvement. The accreditation itself takes place over a two-day visit, with professionals from a variety of educational institutions on campus.
“They do everything from observations in the classroom, to interviews with teachers and faculty, to gathering parental input,” John explains, plus plenty of preliminary documentation and review.
“Because our accreditation commission comes to see what we’re doing and how we’re doing it, they can give us feedback, and challenge us on how to improve our school. We know what areas we need to work on for school improvement and how to help students in the classroom,” John says.
John, as well as several other teachers from Shelterwood, are also part of the AdvancED accreditation teams for other schools. “It is exciting for us to be able to share our expertise and also see how other institutions are improving.”
Accreditation benefits students long after they leave Shelterwood. John points to a student whose school back home in Texas was uncertain about accepting her Shelterwood credits. John simply contacted the state’s AdvancED representative, who facilitated the acquisition of the student’s credits. “It was because of AdvancED that the student was able to receive her full credits,” John says. “This made her transition back home far more seamless.”
“By continuing to make our school better through accreditation, we are helping students learn and grow,” John says. We’re proud of our commitment to accreditation and look forward to constant improvement. Accreditation is one more way that Shelterwood Academy provides an outstanding and valuable education for our students