International Affairs Office, U.S. Department of Education 12/2007 (downloadable Word doc)

Accreditation and Quality Assurance: School-Level Accreditation

here are no specific federal laws or regulations governing the recognition of associations that accredit primary and secondary schools, and the U.S. Department of Education has no oversight role with respect to school accreditation. Most states have laws requiring or encouraging accreditation for public schools and state-chartered private schools.

Schools that possess accreditation and state approval by authorities recognized at the state level are considered to be recognized schools in the U.S. education system. In addition, private schools that are accredited by other associations recognized by the federal Departments of Defense, Homeland Security and State are also considered to be recognized.

Federal Resources

While the federal government has no control over school-level education, it does recognize and support overseas U.S. public and private schools as well as approve domestic schools that seek to admit international students.

SEVIS Approved Schools Map is the Department of Homeland Security’s interactive directory of schools approved to admit international students. It includes both secondary and postsecondary entries.

Office of Overseas Schools is the Department of State’s agency assisting international private schools offering U.S.-style education. It includes links to recognized schools and associations.

Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA) provides information and links to overseas U.S. public schools recognized and operated by the federal government to serve the children of U.S. personnel stationed abroad.

State Resources

States approve or license, and in some cases accredit, public and private schools operating within their jurisdictions.

ECS Guide to State School Accreditation Standards provides information on state regulations and references to relevant state laws. Compiled in 1998.

ECS Guide to Recent State Activities in Accreditation provides update information on changes in state accreditation policies since 1998.

CCSSO Interactive Map of State Education Agency Websites provides links to state websites, where information on school accreditation can be found.

Accrediting Agencies

Schools are accredited by various agencies, including the school commissions of the regional accrediting agencies (public and many private schools) plus other national agencies.

Each of the recognized regional accrediting agencies for postsecondary institutions also has one or more commissions for the accreditation of schools. These include:

  • Middle States Association Commission on Elementary Schools (MES-CES)
  • Middle States Association Commission on Secondary Schools (MES-CSS)
  • Middle States Association Commission on Institution-Wide Accreditation (MES-CIWA)
  • New England Association Commission on American and International Schools Abroad (NEASC-CAISA)
  • New England Association Commission on Independent Schools (NEASC-CIS)
  • New England Association Commission on Public Elementary and Middle Schools (NEASC-CPEMS)
  • New England Association Commission on Public Secondary Schools (NEASC-CPSS)
  • North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement (NCACASI)
  • Northwest Association of Accredited Schools (NAAS)
  • Southern Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement (SACSCASI)
  • Western Association Accrediting Commission for Schools (ACSWASC)

Commission on International and Transregional Accreditation (CITA) is an organization of 6 recognized school accreditation agencies, providing information on standards, procedures, and accredited schools in the United States and elsewhere.

National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) provides information on private school accreditation and links to recognized state accrediting agencies and accredited schools.

National Council for Private School Accreditation (NCPSA) is an organization of 17 state and national accrediting agencies for private schools that adhere to similar standards. The site provides links to associations and accredited schools.