Responsibilities of Membership
ISAS member schools determine their own unique missions and are mission driven. They are incorporated as 501(c)(3) non-profit institutions and are supported primarily by tuition, contributions, and endowment income. Member schools are governed by self-perpetuating boards of trustees who have independent responsibility for the policies and the financial integrity of the school. ISAS schools have clearly stated educational philosophies which emphasize academic preparation and are committed to high educational standards and ongoing institutional improvement. Member schools practice non-discriminatory policies and demonstrate good faith efforts to diversify their student bodies, faculties, and staffs. ISAS schools are expected to maintain sound financial condition.
The Association expects member schools to demonstrate adherence to all ISAS Standards. It is the responsibility of the Standards Committee, on behalf of the membership, to make judgments and recommendations to the Board of Directors on how well a school, reflecting its mission and philosophy, accomplishes adherence to Standards. The Standards Committee may recommend to the Board of Directors that exceptions to adherence to Standards be allowed.
Financial Obligations of Member Schools
An applicant school accepted for membership in the Association at the fall meeting of the Association will pay one half of annual Association dues upon notification of acceptance. Schools accepted at the June meeting of the Association will pay full dues for the following academic year.
Annual Association dues are payable on July 1 and are based on a school’s enrollment at the opening of the preceding academic year as submitted by the school. Dues consist of a base fee plus an assessment for each student according to that student’s level, either Preschool or K-12.
A member school is responsible for all expenses of evaluations and visits involved in the accreditation process.
Fees for conferences and workshops for heads of school, administrator groups, beginning teachers, and other constituency groups will be determined by the ISAS staff and charged on a participation basis.
Revised June 2014
A school is classified as Accredited when it meets the requirements of all policies and standards of the Association or when, in the opinion of the Standards Committee and the Board of Directors, the failure to meet one or more of the policies and standards does not compromise to a serious degree the quality of the school’s educational program.
A school shall be classified as Warned when, in the judgment of the Standards Committee and the Board of Directors, (a) it fails to meet one or more of the policies and standards of the Association and the resulting deficiency seriously detracts from the quality of the school’s educational program, (b) it fails to remove or make substantial progress toward removing all deficiencies noted by the Standards Committee at its last review, (c) it consistently violates policies or standards, or (d) it deliberately violates one or more of the standards.
Warned status may be imposed for a period of up to three years. If the cause for Warned status has not been corrected within the defined period, the school will be removed from Association membership. Under extraordinary circumstances, a second warning may be imposed by a vote of three-fourths of the Board of Directors at a regularly scheduled meeting.
Revised June 2015
A school which is unable to or refuses to meet the Standards for membership in the Association may be removed from membership. A school at risk for removal shall be given a warning of one year unless three-fourths of the Board of Directors, at a regularly scheduled meeting, votes to recommend to the Membership that the school’s accreditation be immediately removed.
Revised June 2017
Recognition of Accreditation Candidacy Schools
ISAS recognizes the value to an applying school of provisional affiliation with the Association. Recognition of Accreditation Candidacy (RAC) status is a temporary status and is not to be confused with membership in the Association. RAC status may not be used for publicity purposes, in the press or in any school literature.
The conditions for Recognition of Accreditation Candidacy status are as follows:
- The school must be independent and must be developing in accordance with the general standards for membership in the Association.
- The school must complete and submit to the Standards Committee the Documentation of Adherence to Standards.
- The school must be visited by ISAS representatives who will review organizational and educational objectives of the school, control and management, administrative organization, faculty and curriculum, admissions policies, the physical plant, financial stability and long-range objectives, integrity of purpose and design, and the degree of progress toward ISAS accreditation.
- The school shall cover all costs of the visit by ISAS representatives, including travel, meals, and lodging.
- After its investigation, the Standards Committee will recommend to the Board of Directors any school which merits RAC status. RAC status is granted upon a majority vote of the Board of Directors.
- A school on RAC status shall pay one-half of Association dues annually. The school will also be responsible for other Association assessments, including conference assessments.
- The head of a school on RAC status is entitled to attend, without vote, membership meetings of the Association.
RAC status may be continued for a maximum of five years. If the school does not succeed in that time in meeting standards for membership in the Association, it will be removed from RAC status. Removal does not preclude the possibility that the institution may be evaluated at a later time for acceptance as an Association member, but the school may not be readmitted to the status of Recognition of Accreditation Candidacy.
Revised June 2017
Policies and Clarification of Standards, Requirements, and Practices
A member school has the right to appear before the Standards Committee to contest any recommendation or decision for adverse accrediting action. The procedures for appeal are:
- A school will be notified in writing that the Standards Committee, at a regularly scheduled meeting, deferred action on the school’s report until its next regularly scheduled meeting. The notification will include the reasons for deferral and the reasons for any proposed adverse accrediting action. Communication will occur within four weeks of the meeting at which such action is taken.
- The school may request that its representative(s) appear before the Standards Committee at its next regularly scheduled meeting to make appeal or submit additional information.
- A school wishing to contest a decision of the Standards Committee may make application to the Executive Director to have its representative(s) appear before the Board of Directors. The intention of the school to make this appeal must be submitted in writing to the ISAS Executive Director no less than twenty-four hours before the regularly scheduled meeting of the Board of Directors at which the accreditation of the school is to be considered.
Non-Member Schools Denied ISAS Membership
A non-member school may appeal a decision denying Association accreditation and membership through the following procedures:
- The school will be notified in writing that the Standards Committee, at a regularly scheduled meeting, deferred action on the school’s application for membership until its next regularly scheduled meeting. The notification will include the reasons for deferral as well as notice of the Committee’s intention to recommend against accreditation and membership. Communication will occur within four weeks of the meeting at which such action is taken.
- The school may request that its representative(s) appear before the Standards Committee at its next regularly scheduled meeting to make appeal or submit additional information.
- If the applying school so requests, its application, along with the Standards Committee recommendation and rationale, will be submitted to the Board of Directors for review at a regularly scheduled Board meeting. The Board of Directors shall appoint a review committee to consider the application and the Standard Committee’s recommendation. The review committee shall report to the Board of Directors no later than the next regularly scheduled Board meeting.
- The applying school is entitled to have its representative(s) appear before the Board of Directors to make appeal before formal action is taken. The request of the school for time on the agenda of the Board meeting must be filed with the ISAS Executive Director at least twenty-four hours before the regularly scheduled Board meeting at which action is to be taken on the school’s application for membership.
Revised July 2002
Accreditation of Expanded Grade Levels
A school is accredited only for the grades in place at the time of its Ten-Year Accreditation Visit. Review of expanded grade levels or a new division is part of the ongoing accreditation process and presumes that the school is perpetuating the mission and standards under which it is currently accredited.
1. In the fall of the year preceding expansion, the school will submit to the ISAS Executive Director and the Standards Committee written notice of plans to expand, including the following:
a. Reasons for expansion,
b. Enrollment and growth rate projections,
c. A description of the facilities available or needed for the additional grades,
d. A financial projection and plan demonstrating the impact of the expansion on the school budget, facilities, and personnel, and
e. A description of the curriculum.
2. The ISAS Executive Director, the Director of Accreditation Services, or their designee(s) will visit the school during the first year of the expansion to evaluate the new program and to submit a report for Standards Committee review. The Standards Committee may grant or defer Provisional Accreditation.
3. By October 1 of each year of expansion, the school will provide the following documentation to the Standards Committee:
a. The number of students enrolled in the new grade/s, indicating how many are returning students and how many are new to the school,
b. A description of the facilities serving each new grade level,
c. Financial statements for the previous and current year,
d. A description of the faculty and staff associated with the new grade/s, including a statement about how the added curriculum is aligned with that of existing grades.
The Standards Committee will review the Addition of New Grade Report at its next scheduled meeting and will submit a recommendation regarding the school’s accreditation to the Board of Directors.
4. When the school’s seminal or terminal grade is reached, the Executive Director, the Director of Accreditation Services, or, if warranted, a committee appointed by the Executive Director will visit the school and issue a report to the Standards Committee unless the school is due for its Ten-Year Accreditation Visit within one year. The Standards Committee will affirm or amend the school’s accreditation. Once the Standards Committee has accredited the expanded grades, further review will be resumed under the normal ISAS evaluation and reporting cycle.
Revised June 2017
Good Faith Efforts
A school should be expected to demonstrate good faith efforts to diversify its student body, faculty, and staff as evidence of its non-discriminatory policy.
Submission of Statistical Reports
Each member school, as a condition of membership, must submit, in a timely manner, all reports and information requested by the Association.
The Committee cautions schools regarding the practice of using deferred income in the current year.
Control of Funds
Schools are reminded that all funds generated by a subsidiary school organization should be under the control of the school in accordance with ISAS Standards.
Parent organizations and booster clubs exist only because of the school and, therefore, are under the fiduciary responsibility of the board of trustees and the school head.
Because of commitments which are non-cancellable, ISAS is unable to provide refunds for events unless cancellation notice is received up to 10 business days prior to the first day of the event. A partial refund less a $50 per registration processing fee will be given for timely cancellations.
Revised June 2017
ISAS joins the National Association of Independent Schools in “reaffirming its belief that the purpose of a financial aid program is to provide monetary assistance to those students who would not be able to attend an independent school without such assistance” and to assure that “schools can most equitably distribute need-based financial aid funds to children of qualifying families.”
While ISAS recommends that schools extend financial assistance only to those who demonstrate they are unable to pay full tuition (and other school-related costs), it recognizes that some schools offer merit awards/scholarships. Best practice suggests that programs of need-based aid be fully funded before merit scholarships are awarded.
When considering merit-based awards, schools are advised to take care that the goals of the program remain true to the mission of the school, are consistent with the philosophy of the school’s need-based program, and accomplish a goal the school is not currently meeting.
Conflict of Interest
No member of the Board of Directors and no employee or agent of ISAS shall make or participate in any decision, review, or evaluation in which that person has a financial interest of any kind, whether disclosed or undisclosed.
No member of the Board of Directors and no employee or agent of ISAS shall make or participate in any decision, review, or evaluation in which that person has a personal interest (other than a financial interest) unless that person has disclosed his or her personal interest to all other participants in the decision-making process (or to the Board) and the final decision maker (or the Board) has expressly concluded that the involvement of that person will not render any subsequent decision subject to the appearance of impropriety, lack of objectivity, or undue influence.
No member of the Board of Directors shall make or participate in any decision, review, or evaluation, which uniquely affects, or could uniquely affect, that person’s school in any way, whether disclosed or undisclosed; provided, however, that Directors may review and establish membership dues and fees without violating this policy.
Evaluation Requirements and Practices
Appointment of Visiting Committee Chairs and Committees
School heads are reminded that they do not have the authority to appoint members of their Visiting Committees and should not contact such persons directly. All initial invitations and appointments are made through ISAS. ISAS staff will confer with heads of schools about the composition of the Visiting Committee.
A policy was adopted whereby no local head would chair a Visiting Committee. It would be best if no local head were a member of a local Visiting Committee.
Visiting Committee Chair Presentation of Report
The Visiting Committee Chair will be asked to present the Report of the Visiting Committee at the Standards Committee Meeting at which it is to be reviewed.
Early Childhood and Preschool Programs
ISAS accredits only pre-first programs which are part of an elementary program, not stand-alone programs. The Self Study should include all aspects of a school’s program.
Research Committee, 1992
Use of Visiting Committee Reports
It is the policy of ISAS that the Visiting Committee Report is a privileged document. Copies are sent to the Standards Committee, to the ISAS offices, and to the head of school and chairman of the board of trustees of the school evaluated. The report is not sent to members of the Visiting Committee. No one in possession of the report is authorized to release any of the information contained in the report without express approval of the head of the subject school.
The report is intended for use by the administration, faculty, and governing body of the school and the ISAS Standards Committee. The school may choose to release the report to the larger school community, if done accurately. The report is not for the purpose of providing a public relations document. If a school uses the report in a manner that misrepresents or distorts its contents or purpose, the school will be subject to corrective action by ISAS.
The charge to the ISAS Visiting Committee is to assess the school’s operation and program in light of its mission and philosophy as reflected in the Self Study and not to judge the professional personnel of the school. The report is, therefore, an objective description of conditions as they appeared to trained and experienced educators at the time of the visit. Any use of the report as an official assessment of the competency of individual faculty, staff, or administrative personnel would be misuse of its intent and purpose.
The members of the Visiting Committee voluntarily express their individual and collective professional judgment in arriving at the observations and conclusions in the document. They are not to be held accountable for injudicious interpretation or unauthorized use of this report.
Adherence to Standards
The Association expects member schools to demonstrate adherence to all ISAS Standards. It is the responsibility of the Standards Committee, on behalf of the membership, to make judgments and recommendations to the Board of Directors about how well a school, reflecting its mission and philosophy, accomplishes adherence to Standards. The Standards Committee may recommend to the Board of Directors that exceptions to adherence to standards be allowed.
Visiting Committee Confidentiality
The following expectation of confidentiality will be signed by all Visiting Committee Members and will be filed at the ISAS office:
I understand that all information and documents I acquire as a Visiting Committee Member regarding a school seeking accreditation by ISAS, except to the extent the information and documents are a matter of public record, are confidential and not to be disclosed in any manner to persons outside of the Visiting Committee. In addition, all discussions among Visiting Committee Members and reports to or discussions with the ISAS Standards Committee regarding a school are likewise confidential and not to be disclosed.
Policy on Dual Accreditations
All ICAISA (International Council Advancing Independent School Accreditation) Criteria must be maintained in the accreditation process. Therefore, the collaborating association must honor the ISAS requirement to adhere to the Criteria.
Policy on Peer Review
Bylaws shall include or address the following:
- A clear definition of roles and responsibilities of the head of school and board of trustees and, where applicable, the religious leaders and the board responsible for the religious body.
- A clear definition of the reporting relationship between the head of school, the board of trustees, and, where applicable, the religious leaders and the board responsible for the religious body.
- A statement which defines the terms of service of trustees.
- A description of the employment and termination procedures for the head of school.
- The designation of the head of school as the person with delegated responsibility for hiring and terminating all school personnel.
- Statements regarding the board of trustees as it relates to resignations and removal, proxies, vacancies, compensation, procedures, and conflict of interest issues.
- Statements addressing meetings, notice, and quorum requirements.
- A paragraph authorizing the board and school to enter into contracts for goods and services, to receive gifts, to specify the fiscal year, and to indemnify the board and its members in all good faith actions and transactions, and specifying the process for amending the bylaws.
- A process for the utilization of a committee structure and the responsibilities of each committee.
Bylaws of exemplary schools also reflect the following best practices:
- A high level of trust between the head of school and the board of trustees.
- A history which indicates a lack of deviation from the bylaws.
- Behaviors which indicate a clear understanding of the boundaries within which each constituency must perform its service to the school.
- A healthy balance on the board of trustees of current parents, former parents, and community leaders of other relevant groups.
- Board chairs who make a commitment to serve a minimum of two years.
- When conflicts occur which are not easily resolved, the board and the head of school seek a neutral third party to consult with them before problems escalate to a state of crisis.
Policy for Handling Complaints
The Association’s policy on requests to investigate member institutions charged with violations of Association standards depends on the nature of the charges and the evidence presented. Only substantially supported allegations of practices which could detract to a serious degree from the quality of the school’s educational program are considered by the Association.
The Association will not intervene on behalf of individuals or act as a court of disciplinary action unless the context suggests the kind of capricious, unprofessional action which detracts from an institution’s educational program.
If a complaint is filed in writing and if the ISAS Executive Director deems it of sufficient importance, the Executive Director and an Association representative appointed by the President of the Board of Directors will investigate the complaint with the knowledge of and in conference with those who are concerned. The ISAS Executive Director will then report the results of such a preliminary investigation to the Board of Directors for instruction on further action.
Policy on Ad Hoc Associations
Occasionally, ISAS Member Schools in a given locale form ad hoc associations for various professional purposes such as professional development, collaboration, and marketing and to create websites and schedule events featuring speakers, discussions, etc.
In order that the ISAS staff might anticipate and avoid scheduling conflicts, coordinate Association-wide professional development opportunities and speaker selection for the benefit of all ISAS members, and respond to the occasional inquiry about such events (which have not been scheduled by the regional office), members establishing such groups and/or planning such events are asked to inform the ISAS office and coordinate their purposes, timing, and content with the ISAS staff. Permission to use the ISAS logo for other than individual school purposes should be requested in writing from the Executive Director.
Policy on School Records
In the event a school closes or ceases operations while accredited by ISAS, it will notify ISAS of the permanent storage location and arrange for access to its student cumulative summary record files or it will forward the cumulative record files to ISAS for safekeeping and future access by authorized personnel.