Accreditation: what’s the process and why is it important?

It is an exciting week ahead for New Life Academy! The ACSI/AdvancED Accreditation Committee will be at New Life Academy from Sunday through Wednesday (Sept 15 – 19, 2018). We have spent the last 18 months in a self-assessment study and we are ready and confident that our collective effort and work will result in positive results and future improvements! Read on and learn more about NLA’s road of our Accreditation process.

Accreditation is an important process and assures parents that an independent, objective peer review of the school has been performed. It reassures parents that New Life Academy has a plan in place to achieve our vision, attain our objectives and is focused on continual improvement. New Life Academy will be dual accredited by our regional accreditation body (AdvancEd) and by our specialist accreditation, ACSI (Association of Christian Schools International). This assures that New Life Academy meets both the academic standards required of the AdvancEd association and the Christian standards are met by the ACSI association.

First things first, why do schools go through accreditation?

  • Accrediting organizations such as ACSI/AdvancED provide state-recognized certification that a school is a trustworthy institution of learning
  • To develop, implement and pursue plans that lead to improved student learning and to ensure that a school is fulfilling its vision and mission
  • Successful accreditation processes encourage schools to manage change through regular assessment, planning, implementing, monitoring and reassessment for the short and long term

How often does accreditation take place at New Life Academy?

  • New Life Academy has been accredited through AdvancEd.
  • Every five-six years, schools must go through the accreditation process again to assure continual improvement.
  • This year, New Life Academy added ACSI to give us a dual accreditation through ACSI/AdvancEd.

When and why did NLA pursue dual accreditation?

  • In 2015, New Life Academy determined to participate in a dual accreditation process through Association of Christian Schools International and AdvancED.
  • NLA has historically been solely accredited through AdvancED but we decided that by adding the ACSI certification, NLA will continue to keep our school community committed to the mission of being a decidedly Christ-centered school.
  • By being dual accredited, it assures parents that New Life Academy meets both the academic standards required of the AdvancEd association and the Christian standards are met by the ACSI association.

Who was involved in the accreditation process?

  • The entire NLA community: faculty, staff, parents, and the Governing Council!
  • Remember all of those surveys? We have collected much data that is leading to our plans to improve.

NLA’s Accreditation Process (abbreviated explanation)

  • From July 2015-October of 2017, EE-12th grade teachers fulfilled requirements to become certified from ACSI. This is in addition to their Minnesota teaching certification requirements. We are happy to report that 100% of our teachers at the end of the 2018 school year were certified through ACSI. New teachers that joined us for the 2018-19 school year will have a year to become ACSI certified.
  • In July of 2017, the Steering Committee was established (Ms. Richter-Chair, Mr. Gilbert-Co-chair, Mr. Atkinson, Mrs. DeBoer, Mrs. Clausen, Mrs. Allen, Mr. Schmaltz, Mr. Kleiner, and Mrs. Rogers.
  • During the 2017-2018 school year, every NLA staff member was assigned to a committee to evaluate and gather evidence of the school’s effectiveness or needed improvements in 8 areas:
    • Standard 1: Philosophy and Foundations
    • Standard 2: Governance and Executive Leadership
    • Standard 3: Home and Community Relations and Student Services
    • Standard 4: Personnel Policies
    • Standard 5: Instructional Program (Academic and Biblical Permeation)
    • Standard 6: Student Care
    • Standard 7: Character, Values, Spiritual Formation of Students
    • Standard 8: Continuous School Improvement Plan.
  • After an in-depth self-study/evaluation of every aspect of New Life Academy’s educational and operations, the Governing Council reviewed and approved (July 2018) the study which was then submitted to ACSI/AdvancED on August 5, 2018.

What results will come out of the ACSI/AdvancED Accreditation for New Life Academy?

  • The task of the visiting ACSI/AdvancED Accreditation committee is to validate the findings (strengths and areas to improve) of the NLA’s self-study and to make recommendations for improvement.
  • As a result of the self-study, New Life Academy has already identified and implemented plans to address the areas of needed improvement.

Top 3 Strengths for NLA identified through the Self-Study

  1. Community (NLA has an amazing school community)
    • Relationships–Student to teacher, teacher to parent, and parent to parent relationships have created a synergy that energizes the daily atmosphere and glorifies God
    • Strong parent volunteerism, godly shepherding and leadership of the Governing Council, strong support from the new pastor and New Life Church, and a dedicated and gifted faculty are the essential ingredients that contribute to the development of the amazing “community” at New Life Academy.
  2. Well-rounded educational program offered at NLA by dedicated faculty who are called to be at NLA.
    • Relationship driven, teachers inspire students to grow spiritually, intellectually, academically, artistically, physically, and socially (Standard 1.5).
    • Educational opportunities course offerings for a school the size of NLA are comprehensive, mission trips, before school music programs, enrichment learning, STEAM and the 15% IP programs, art and graphic arts, drama performances, mock trial, ski club, college tours, retreats, competitive athletics, choir trips, outreach projects, and more (Standard 3.12).
    • For a school our size, NLA offers a wide-variety of opportunities for students which helps create the impetus of a transformational experience.
  3. NLA’s commitment to being a decidedly Christian school is a tremendous strength and has created a spiritual environment where Christ is at the center of every facet
    • evidence of inspiring students to become Authentic Christ-followers, Spirit Driven Individuals, Agents of Positive Change, Accomplished Learners and Mindful Doers, and Wise Leaders and Discerning Followers is confirmed through activities and survey data.
    • For the past 40 years, NLA has put Christ first through faith, prayer, and obedience. Beginning at the top with leadership of the Governing Council through the administration and faculty, NLA is committed to be a decidedly Christ-centered school.
    • NLA is thankful that parent, student, and staff surveys affirm that the spiritual atmosphere and commitment to be an authentic Christian school is what draws stakeholders to be at New Life Academy.

Top 3 Areas of Identified Needed Improvement through the Self-Study

  1. The overall efficiency of New Life Academy has been hindered by the school software system, PCR Educator, that promised to be the perfect system when it was purchased and implemented in 2015.
  2. New Life Academy recognizes the need to develop and implement a robust professional development plan to maximize each individual student’s learning potential.
    • There will also be a focus on instructional strategies that engage learners and informs teachers of student understanding (Standard 5.4 and 5.5).
    • There will be training and focus on data/assessment analysis to improve the K-12 student learning and instruction experience (Standard 5.7).
    • Professional Development and Training will be conducted in the area of Intervention so that all faculty members will continue to differentiate instruction.
  3. NLA will seek to elevate the spiritual environment through facilitating mentoring connections between students and faculty/staff. The development and implementation of a program to train and equip faculty and student community group leaders is in process.

In Closing

  • Thank you Ms. Richter and the entire Accreditation Steering Committee, faculty, staff, Governing Council, and parents. Your work and effort is greatly appreciated and has already helped to elevate the New Life Experience for our students!
  • By November, New Life Academy will learn the status and results of our Accreditation.

In His Service,

Clark Gilbert