Educational accreditation is a type of quality assurance process under which services and operations of educational institutions or programs are evaluated by an external body to determine if applicable standards are met. If standards are met, accredited status is granted by the agency.
In most countries in the world, the function of educational accreditation is conducted by a government organization, such as a ministry of education. In the United States, however, a quality assurance process exists that is independent of government and performed by private non-profit organizations. The U.S. accreditation process was developed in the late 19th century and early 20th century after educational institutions perceived a need for improved coordination and articulation between secondary and post-secondary educational institutions, along with standardization of requirements between the two levels.
Higher education accreditation
Accreditation of higher education varies by jurisdiction and may be focused on either or both the institution or the individual programs of study.
Higher education accreditation in the United States has long been established as a peer review process coordinated by accreditation commissions and member institutions. The federal government began to play a limited role in higher education accreditation in 1952 with the reauthorization of the GI Bill for Korean War veterans. With the creation of the U.S. Department of Education and under the terms of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, the U.S. Secretary of Education is required by law to publish a list of nationally recognized accrediting agencies for higher education.
Accreditation of primary and secondary education
In the United States, there is no federal government list of recognized accreditation agencies for primary and secondary schools like there is for higher education. Public schools must adhere to criteria set by the state governments, and there is wide variation among the individual states in the requirements applied to non-public primary and secondary schools. There are six regional accreditors in the United States that have historically accredited elementary schools, junior high schools, middle schools, high schools, as well as institutions of higher education. Some of the regional accreditors, such as AdvancED, and some independent associations, such as the Association of Christian Schools International, have expanded their accreditation activity to include schools outside of the United States.
- Dr. Marjorie Peace Lenn, Global Trends in Quality Assurance in Higher Education, World Education News & Reviews, v. 5, no. 2, Spring 1992, pages 1 and 21
- The History of the Middle States Association, The Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools website, accessed October 6, 2010
- History of the North Central Association, North Central Association of Colleges and Schools website, accessed October 6, 2010
- What Is Accreditation?, AdvancED website, accessed October 6, 2010
- "Recognition of Accreditation Organizations: A Comparison of Policy & Practice of Voluntary Accreditation and The United States Department of Education". CHEA. January 1998. Retrieved 2009-11-06.
- U.S. Department of Education, State Regulation of Private Schools[dead link], June 2000.
- "CHEA: Directory of Regional Accrediting Organizations". Retrieved 20 January 2013.
- "Where We Are". AdvancED. Retrieved 2012-09-08.
- Association of Christian Schools International[dead link] Acsi.org