What is accreditation?
Accreditation is a voluntary dual-purpose process that schools (1) must be worthy of the trust placed in them to provide high-quality learning opportunities and (2) clearly demonstrate continual self-improvement.
An accredited school is focused on a mission and goals for students; it is student-oriented and examines its students' performance continuously; it accepts objective evaluation from a team of outside peer professionals trained by WASC; it maintains a qualified faculty within an effectively organized school; it collaboratively assesses the quality of its educational programs on a regular basis; and it plans for the future.
Who benefits from accreditation?
Everyone. WASC accreditation is a valuable service
to the public, students and educational institutions
Also helpful is the ongoing
counsel provided by the accreditation commissions and
the hundreds of peer experts used in the process of
- The public is assured that
accredited institutions are evaluated extensively and
conform to general expectations of performance and
quality. Because accreditation requires continual self-evaluation,
frequent reports, and periodic external review, the
public can be assured that the educational quality
of programs and services offered by the institution
are current, reflect high standards of quality, and
are offered with integrity.
- Students can be assured
that the institutions in which they seek to enroll
have been reviewed and the educational programs that
are offered have been evaluated for quality and currentness.
- Educational institutions benefit from the stimulus
for self-study and self-improvement provided by the
Accreditation status also increases
opportunities for public and private funding for both
the institution and students and enhances the institution’s
credibility and reputation.
See About WASC Accreditation: Why Accreditation.
What is WASC?
The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) is one of six regional
accrediting associations in the United States. The Association provides assistance
to schools located in California, Hawaii, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern
Marianas, American Samoa, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of
the Marshall Islands, Fiji, and East Asia. The affairs of WASC are administered
by a board of directors composed of representatives from the three commissions
that are listed below:
- (1) Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities: www.wascsenior.org
- (2) Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges: www.accjc.org
- (3) Accrediting Commission for Schools.
Note: Instead of referring to the Accrediting Commission for Schools, Western
Association of Schools and Colleges, this division is often referred to as WASC
by staff and the constituents served.
See also About
WASC Accreditation: Overview.
What if I have a question about a college or university?
Please contact the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities directly. They can be found on the web at www.wascsenior.org and reached by telephone at 510-748-9001.
What if I have a question about a community or junior college?
Please contact the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges directly. They can be found on the web at www.accjc.org and reached by telephone at 415-506-0234.
What connection exists between WASC and the state departments of
education, the federal government, and other governmental agencies?
WASC is not a governmental agency but does work collaboratively with state
governments and divisions of the federal government such as the Department of
Education and the Department of State.
What types of schools are accredited by the Accrediting Commission
for Schools, WASC?
The Accrediting Commission for Schools extends its services to 4,500 public,
independent, church-related, and proprietary schools of the following levels
- elementary schools
- junior high, middle, and intermediate schools
- comprehensive and college preparatory high schools
- continuation high schools
- alternative education schools
- charter schools
- occupational/vocational high schools
- regional occupational programs/centers
- adult schools
- vocational skill centers
In addition, WASC accredits supplementary education programs and works with distance learning schools on a case-by-case basis. WASC works collaboratively with sixteen associations.
See About WASC Accreditation: Overview.
Does WASC accredit preschools?
Preschools are only accredited by WASC when they are part of a multiple grades school. Please contact the WASC office for more details.
Does WASC accredit home schools?
WASC accredits some home schools that are affiliated with charter schools or alternative education programs in the public schools.
Does WASC accredit small schools? How can small schools maximize its resources in order to conduct the WASC self-study visit and the ongoing improvement process?
Yes, WASC accredits small schools. However, in order to be eligible for WASC affiliation, student enrollment must reach a minimum of 15 full-time students.
WASC encourages schools to modify the suggested model self-study process as long as the school adheres to the outcomes or parameters of a quality self-study. These are listed below:
Many small schools conduct the self-study process and ongoing analysis of action plan progress as a committee of the whole. During the self-study process schools concentrate on one criteria category for a determined time period and then move to the other criteria. Usually, schools work with curriculum, instruction, and assessment initially as much information is gleaned that can be used in examination of the other programmatic areas.
- The involvement and collaboration of all staff and other shareholders to support student achievement
- The clarification and measurement of what all students should know, understand, and be able to do through schoolwide student goals (expected schoolwide learning results)
- the gathering and analyzing of data about students and student achievement
- the assessment of the entire school program and its impact on student learning in relation to expected schoolwide learning results, academic standards, and the WASC criteria
- the alignment of a long-range action plan to the school's areas of need; the development and implementation of an accountability system for monitoring the accomplishment of the plan
This is important to note because in November 2002 the University of California passed a policy that requires all schools that want UC approval of courses to meet the a-g requirements to be accredited by WASC or at least be an initial WASC candidate.
See also Why Accreditation.
How does the Accrediting Commission for Schools operate?
Under the direction of the WASC Corporate Board, the Accrediting Commission
for Schools is responsible for its own administrative structure and fiscal policy.
Specifically, the Commission is responsible for taking accrediting actions, selecting
its own executive director and associates and all support staff, promulgating
its own criteria or standards, adopting guidelines for institutional self-study,
and developing and implementing procedures for improvement of the accreditation
The Commission board that is composed of thirty-one representatives
from educational organizations with whom WASC collaborates and four public members,
meets three times a year. The operating funds come from yearly fees paid by schools
to maintain their accreditation.
Note: Instead of referring to the Accrediting
Commission for Schools, Western Association of Schools and Colleges, this division
is often referred to as WASC by staff and the constituents served.
WASC Accreditation: Overview
What are the criteria used to evaluate all schools?
The criteria are research-based guidelines of systemic school improvement
that address accreditation’s central tenet: a school operates with a clear understanding
of its purpose.
The criteria were developed with the assistance of numerous practicing educational leaders and theorists. The objective was to develop criteria that brought
attention to concepts and factors that differentiate between effective and ineffective
schools. Since most formal education occurs in an institutional setting, factors that impact
institutional effectiveness were considered along with curriculum, instructional strategies
See About WASC Accreditation: WASC Criteria.
What are the possible terms of accreditation?
For most schools, WASC accreditation is based on a six-year accreditation cycle, with a full Self-Study visit occurring every six years. For additional information regarding the WASC accreditation cycle see About WASC Accreditation: WASC Accreditation Cycle.
What is the beginning date of accreditation?
All WASC accreditation terms begin on July 1 and expire on June 30. Most schools operate on a fiscal calendar that begins on July 1 and ends June 30. Because of the need for schools to be accredited for full academic years (which normally parallel fiscal years), the Commission grants terms of accreditation that coincide with the fiscal and academic calendars. WASC accreditation is retroactive to cover the entire school year for the first year a school is accredited.
What are the procedures for becoming accredited?
After reviewing the WASC Conditions of Eligibility, interested schools and supplementary education programs should complete the
Request for WASC Affiliation form and return the completed form to the WASC
office. Both of these documents as well as additional information can be found on the Getting Started with Accreditation page of our website.
If it is determined
that the school may be eligible for affiliation with
WASC, an Initial
Visit Application will be sent to the
school for completion and submission to the WASC office.
On receipt of the forms and approval to proceed, the
executive director will arrange for a two-member, one
or two day visit to the school. Initial visits to newly established schools will not occur prior to the second semester of operation, i.e., a spring visit if a school opens in the fall. Following the visit,
the committee will prepare a report to present to the
WASC Accrediting Commission for Schools for action.
This will include recommendations regarding the school’s
ongoing improvement. The school will be notified by
the executive director of the Commission’s action.
If the Commission’s
action is favorable, the school will be granted either
candidacy or initial accreditation for a term not to
exceed three years.
How much does it cost to be accredited with WASC?
The Accrediting Commission for Schools, WASC charges annual membership fees. Schools seeking initial affiliation with WASC leading to full accreditation shall pay a nonrefundable $150.00 application fee plus an initial visit fee of $600.00 (see the Getting Started with Accreditation page for further initial visit information). Visiting Committee fees are also charged when an accreditation visit is scheduled to take place. Please refer to the appropriate schedule for further fee information.
See WASC Accreditation: WASC Fees
What information can WASC provide about the schools that are accredited?
The only information released to the public about schools is found in the
WASC directory. Because WASC is not a governmental agency, it is not subject
to the Freedom of Information Act. More specific information can be obtained
from the schools.
Does WASC require that teachers and administrators in public and
private schools be fully credentialed by a governmental agency in order for the
school to qualify for accreditation?
The Accrediting Commission for Schools, WASC, requires that personnel be qualified
for the position they hold and meet any requirements of governmental or private
What happens if a student attends a non-accredited schools and transfers
to an accredited school within or outside the WASC region?
At the elementary and middle school levels, the transfer of records and credits from a non-accredited school to an accredited school is usually not a problem; however, most accredited schools at the secondary level have policies to accept credits only from regionally accredited schools.
If a student comes from
another part of the country or world, WASC has reciprocal agreements with
the five other regional associations. WASC also recognizes some of the other national and international accrediting associations. Please contact the WASC Office for further details.
What happens to student records (transcripts) if a school closes?
Public school records would be transferred to the
district or county office of education. In case of
a consolidation of public schools, the records may
be housed at the remaining school. In the case of certain
religious schools that are part of a system (such as
Catholic or Seventh-day Adventist schools) the records
would be sent to the church headquarters.
students who have a concern about this issue should
ask their school to supply them with information stating
what plan they have for storing records in case the
school should close. While the matter of retaining
student records at the elementary and junior high school
level is important, it is crucial at the high school
level to know where school records (especially transcripts)
will be housed for many years in the future.
How are individuals selected to participate in accreditation visits?
WASC maintains an extensive database of experienced professional educators
from which to select accreditation team members. These individuals come from
a variety of backgrounds—public and private education at all levels—including
classroom teachers, administrators, college professors, school board members
and others who have an intimate knowledge of educational trends and issues.
members are selected on the basis of their expertise and the type of school being
evaluated. If a school is being jointly accredited with an agency such as the
Hawaii Association of Independent Schools (HAIS) or with a religious organization,
then the team members are selected collaboratively with the other agency. Team
members are required to participate in WASC-conducted training workshops so they
will be thoroughly familiar with the WASC evaluation process, and have an understanding
of what is expected of them as a visiting team member.
Are retired educators eligible to serve on accreditation visits?
Retired educators are still eligible to serve on accreditation visits. Their
expertise has been a valuable asset to accreditation as well as coaching others
new to the accreditation process.
What is the process for filing complaints against accredited institutions?
See Contact Us: Complaints
What happens to complaints that are filed against accredited institutions?
Each signed complaint letter is responded to in a timely manner. Unsigned
letters are filed but no response is given. If the results of the investigation
of a complaint are corroborated by our agency, the executive director may direct
the school to rectify the situation or take such other immediate action as he/she
deems appropriate subject to ratification of the action by the Commission at
its next meeting. However, it should be noted that there are a number of issues
or allegations that are not under WASC’s jurisdiction. Those are listed
in section A15.2 of our bylaws.