Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
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, post-secondary 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.
The Accrediting Commission for Schools, Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) believes that the goal of any school should be to provide for successful student learning. Programs encompassing both the cognitive and effective components of learning should foster human growth and development and enable students to become responsible, productive members of the school community and of society. Each school should develop a school purpose to reflect its beliefs. For ongoing program improvement, each school should engage in objective and subjective internal and external evaluations to assess progress in achieving its purpose.
The Commission grants accreditation to a school based upon the following:
The presumption that the primary goals of accreditation are
- certification to the public that the school is a trustworthy institution of learning
- the improvement of the school's programs and operations to support student learning.
The school's self-study and the visiting committee's report provides compelling evidence that:
- the school is substantially accomplishing its stated purposes and functions identified as appropriate for an institution of its type
- the school is meeting an acceptable level of quality in accordance with the WASC criteria adopted by the Accrediting Commission.
WASC advances and validates quality ongoing school improvement by supporting its private and public elementary, secondary, and post-secondary member institutions to engage in a rigorous and relevant self-evaluation and peer review process that focuses on student learning.
The above information was excerpted from the WASC website: http://www.acswasc.org/about_overview.htm