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Frequently Asked Questions

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 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 ACS 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. ACS WASC accreditation is a school improvement process and therefore is a process that serves as the foundation for quality education. An accredited school is a statement to the broader community and the stakeholders that it is trustworthy institution for student learning and committed to ongoing improvement.

  • The public is assured that accredited institutions are evaluated extensively and conform to expectations of performance and quality. Because accreditation requires continual self-evaluation and monitoring of its programs and operations in relation to the impact on student learning 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.
  • Educational institutions benefit from the stimulus for self-study and self-improvement provided by the accreditation process.

See also ACS WASC Overview.

What is ACS WASC?

The Accrediting Commission for Schools, Western Association of Schools and Colleges (ACS WASC), a world-renowned accrediting association, a regional accrediting association in the United States, works closely with the Office of Overseas Schools under the Department of State. ACS WASC 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, Asia, and other parts of the world. ACS WASC extends its services to over 4,600 public, independent, church-related, charter, online, supplementary education programs/centers, and proprietary pre-K-12 and adult schools; and works with 17 associations in joint accreditation processes, and collaborates with other organizations such as the California Department of Education, the Hawaii Department of Education, the Association of Christian Schools International, the Council of International Schools, and the International Baccalaureate.

See also ACS WASC 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.

Does ACS WASC accredit preschools?

Yes, but currently preschools are only accredited when they are part of a multiple grades school. Please contact the ACS WASC office for more details.

Does ACS WASC accredit home schools?

ACS WASC allows for the accreditation of independent study programs and/or homeschool programs that meet the following criteria:

  • Continuation schools, alternative schools, and independent study schools that are connected to public school districts, including those that offer a home-study program, are eligible for accreditation provided the program has been included in the school’s self-study evaluation within the ACS WASC accreditation process. The school must provide oversight of curriculum and delivery of instruction and be responsible for student grades, transcripts, and analysis of assessment results.
  • Private schools that offer independent study as their primary instructional delivery system are eligible for accreditation if they meet all ACS WASC private school criteria and possess a #CDS from the California Department of Education. The school must provide oversight of curriculum and delivery of instruction and be responsible for student grades, transcripts, and analysis of assessment results.
  • Charter schools (public or private) that offer independent study as their primary instructional delivery system are eligible for accreditation if they meet all ACS WASC criteria and possess a #CDS from the California Department of Education. The school must provide oversight of curriculum and delivery of instruction and be responsible for student grades, transcripts, and analysis of assessment results.
  • Private Satellite Programs (PSPs) that are directly connected to an ACS WASC-accredited private school are eligible for accreditation, provided the program has been included in the school’s self-study evaluation within the ACS WASC accreditation process. The school must provide oversight of curriculum and delivery of instruction and be responsible for student grades, transcripts, and analysis of assessment results.

Individual home schools where students are taught by parents at home are not eligible for ACS WASC accreditation.

Does ACS WASC accredit online schools?

ACS WASC accredits online schools and programs. ACS WASC has aligned with the iNACOL Standards that are also used by the University of California in the evaluation of online a-g courses. UC requires all online courses to be assessed against the iNACOL Standards for Quality Online Courses before the courses are submitted to UC for “a-g” review. ACS WASC is in the process of integrating the iNACOL standards with the ACS WASC criteria and indicators in all aspects of the accreditation process.


Does ACS WASC accredit for-profit schools?

ACS WASC accredits for-profit pre-K-12 schools. However, ACS WASC does not accredit for-profit postsecondary non-degree granting institutions.


Does ACS WASC accredit small schools? How can small schools maximize their resources in order to conduct the ACS WASC self-study visit and the ongoing improvement process?

In order to be eligible for ACS WASC affiliation, student enrollment must reach and maintain a minimum of 15 full-time students.

ACS 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.

  1. The involvement and collaboration of all staff and other shareholders to support student achievement
  2. The clarification and measurement of what all students should know, understand, and be able to do through schoolwide student goals (schoolwide learning outcomes)
  3. The gathering and analyzing of data about students and student achievement
  4. The assessment of the entire school program and its impact on student learning in relation to expected schoolwide learning results, academic standards, and the ACS WASC criteria
  5. 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 ACS WASC or at least be an initial ACS WASC candidate.
See also ACS WASC Overview.

What are the criteria used to evaluate all schools?

ACS WASC criteria are research-based guidelines of systemic school improvement that focus on student achievement of the schoolwide learner outcomes aligned with the academic standards. The criteria guide a school in evaluation of its organization and program, e.g., leadership empowerment, continual professional learning by staff.

What is an accreditation status?

The Commission shall grant a status of accreditation that shows a strong correlation to existing student achievement results and current programmatic and operational actions based on the ACS WASC criteria and accreditation status factors noted in the visiting committee report and the visiting committee recommendation. The visiting committee will base its status recommendation on evidence contained in the self-study and encountered during the school visit that indicates:

  • The degree to which high achievement by all students is occurring


  • The capacity of the school to implement, monitor, and accomplish the action plan aligned to the areas of greatest need impacting student achievement


  • The school’s status with respect to institutional and/or governing authority expectations.

What is the accreditation status time frame?

Accreditation status, granted by action of the Commission, starts on July 1 and expire on June 30.

What are the steps necessary to become accredited?

After reviewing the ACS WASC Conditions of Eligibility, interested schools and supplementary education centers/programs should complete the ACS WASC Affiliation Request form and return the completed form to the ACS WASC office. Both of these documents as well as additional information can be found on the Beginning the Accreditation Process page of our website.

If it is determined that the school may be eligible for affiliation with ACS WASC, an Initial Visit Application will be sent to the school for completion and submission to the ACS WASC office. On receipt of the forms and approval to proceed, a two-member, one- or two-day visit to the school will be scheduled. 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 Commission 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.

What are the fees associated with ACS WASC accreditation?

ACS WASC charges annual membership fees. Schools seeking initial affiliation with ACS WASC leading to full accreditation shall pay a nonrefundable application fee plus an initial visit fee (see the Beginning the Accreditation Process 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 additional fee information.

See also ACS WASC Fees.

What information can ACS WASC provide about the schools that are accredited?

The only information released to the public about schools is found in the ACS WASC directory. Because ACS WASC is not a governmental agency, it is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

How can I find out the ACS WASC accreditation code for a Cal Grant application?

ACS WASC accreditation codes are available in the Directory of Schools on the ACS WASC website. Search for the school, then double click on the school’s name. The ACS WASC code will be listed immediately below the school’s grade span.

Does ACS 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?

ACS WASC requires that personnel be qualified for the position they hold and meet any requirements of governmental or private associations. Public school teachers are expected to be fully credentialed per state mandates. Private school teachers are encouraged to be highly qualified and have expertise in the grade level and/or discipline being taught.

What happens if a student attends a non-accredited schools and transfers to an accredited school within or outside of the ACS 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; most accredited schools at the secondary level have policies related to what credits will be accepted. In addition, schools may want to review curricular standards and courses before accepting the credits.

ACS WASC also recognizes some of the other national and international accrediting associations. Please contact the ACS 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 if a school closes. 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.

Parents and 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?

ACS 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.

Team 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, the team members are selected collaboratively with the other agency. Team members are required to participate in ACS WASC-conducted training so they will be thoroughly familiar with the ACS 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 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.

Is there a process for complaints?

Accreditation by ACS WASC is an expression of confidence that an institution is satisfactorily achieving its objectives and that it meets or exceeds the Commission’s standards of quality, integrity, and effectiveness. The Commission is concerned with institutional integrity and with performance consistent with Commission standards and policies. While it cannot intervene in the internal procedures of institutions or act as a regulatory body, the Commission can and does respond to complaints regarding allegations of conditions at affiliated institutions that raise significant questions about the institution’s compliance with the standards of conduct expected of an accredited institution.

ACS WASC does not consider allegations concerning the personal lives of individuals connected with its affiliated institutions. It assumes no responsibility for adjudicating isolated individual grievances between students, faculty, or members of the public and individual institutions. The Commission will not act as a court of appeal in matters of admission, granting or transfer of academic credit, grades, fees, student financial aid, student discipline, collective bargaining, faculty appointments, promotion, tenure, and dismissals or similar matters. With regard to an affiliated institution operated or governed by a religious organization, the Commission will not respond to any complaint regarding the religious nature or programs of the school (e.g., a complaint about the orthodoxy of a religious service, textbook, or class will not be adjudicated by the Commission). If the complainant has instituted or has threatened to institute litigation against the institution, no action under this procedure will be taken by the Commission while the matter is under judicial consideration.

See also the ACS WASC Complaint Process.


Can a school appeal its accreditation?

A school may only appeal the decision of the Commission to grant:

  1. Probationary Accreditation Status
  2. Accreditation Status Withheld.

A six-year status with a review may not be appealed. In addition, initial visit decisions on candidacy and/or initial accreditation cannot be appealed. The action of the Accrediting Commission on an appeal shall be final.

The appeal must be based on one or more of the following grounds:

  1. There were errors or omissions in carrying out prescribed procedures on the part of the evaluation team and/or the Commission;
  2. There was demonstrable bias or prejudice on the part of one or more members of the evaluation team or Commission which materially affected the Commission’s decision;
  3. The evidence before the Commission prior to and on the date when it made the decision which is being appealed was materially in error; or
  4. The decision of the Commission was not supported by substantial evidence.

A letter is to be directed to the Commission by the chief administrator(s) of the district and school within sixty (60) calendar days of receipt of the letter of notification of the action by the Commission, stating the basis for the appeal. A check in the amount of the appeal fee shall accompany the letter of appeal.

See also the ACS WASC Bylaws and Policy Manual.

What is the reinstatement process?

Schools that have had their accreditation status withheld have the option to request a reinstatement visit. The visit must occur within 18 months from the date of the original visit or the school will need to reapply for accreditation through the initial visit process. A school seeking reinstatement will request a reinstatement visit and submit a reinstatement report that (1) addresses the critical areas for follow-up identified by the previous visiting committee and (2) updates the self-study report to provide evidence of the progress made.

See also the ACS WASC Reinstatement Procedures.