What is accreditation?
Accreditation is a process of evaluation which begins with a self-study, followed by a visit of objective observers to help ELCA schools and early childhood centers improve the quality of their programs. It is a completely voluntary process which is available to institutional members of ELEA.
How is accreditation different from association membership?
Just because a school holds membership in a state, regional or national association or is licensed by a State or Local licensing agency, doesn't mean that it is accredited. Many schools claim to be 'accredited' when in reality they are not. Accreditation is a status granted by organizations which have been authorized and equipped to do so. Accreditation is a highly prized designation which has to be earned by the accredited schools. It implies ongoing awareness and adherence to established standards. It demonstrates to present and future clientele that your institution is serious about its mission. It validates your school's hard work and progress in a variety of important areas.
What accreditation is offered by ELEA?
ELEA has two processes for full accreditation, one for early childhood centers that serve only preschool and kindergarten students, and another for schools that serve students in kindergarten and elementary grades. Schools who serve both early childhood and elementary students maybe become accredited in both areas with one process.
We also offer what is known as "wrap around" accreditation which allows schools and early childhood centers to complete an abbreviated version addressing faith based aspects of the program if they are currently accredited by NAEYC, AdvancEd, or WASC.
What are benefits of accreditation?
- A national recognition of a commitment to excellence
- A system that helps the center or school meet or exceed local, state or national standards
- An improvement process that is grounded in best practices generally recognized by educational and business agencies
- An opportunity to create validation and support within the local community and peers at a national level
How is accreditation earned?
Step 1. Contact with ELEA The school or center orders the accreditation materials when a decision has been made to pursue accreditation. The ELEA National Office provides a CD that contains a Preparation Guide, support materials and samples of required documentation, the self study standards, and an application to proceed with the process which is then returned to ELEA with a $500 deposit toward future expenses. This is the point at which a site visit team chairperson is assigned.
Step 2. Complete a self-study process based on national standards The self study requires an analysis of five areas: Mission and Philosophy, Professional Personnel, Curriculum, Physical Environment, and Governance.
Step 3. Host a site visit team The school or center selects additional local team members to review the self study and interact with the educational community for two to four days. The visitation team submits a copy of their comprehensive site visit report to the school or center.
Step 4. Create and maintain an improvement plan that supports continuous improvement Within 60 days, the school or center submits a plan to ELEA that addresses needed improvements. The plan’s progress is reviewed on a yearly basis as part of the required annual report.
What is the cost of accreditation?
In addition to the $250 application fee, the school or center allocate the time and finances to conduct the self study, produce a detailed self study, and host a visitation team. Expenses vary according to the size of the school or center. The total cost ranges from $2000-$4000. The usual time commitment to complete the process is 18-24 months.
How is accreditation maintained?
After a seven-year accreditation is awarded, an annual report and $100 fee is submitted to the national office of the ELEA. The annual report includes basic data, any major changes and a review of activities that addressed the goals of the improvement plan. Maintenance of accreditation is dependent on a yearly documented commitment to the continuous improvement process.