In recent years, the issue of accreditation has gained importance at the high school level. This applies to all high schools in general, but particularly for private high schools, especially online high schools. This article will briefly discuss the particulars pertaining to accreditation in the U.S.
In the U.S., the Department of Education (DoE) Office of Post-Secondary Education (OPE) publishes a list of agencies which are nationally recognized for the accreditation of institutions of higher education – colleges and universities – within the US. The DoE does not recognize agencies for the accreditation of public or private high schools. For further details on US DoE policy, click on this link to the US Department of Education website.
In recent years, many high schools, both public and private, have begun seeking accreditation by the agencies recognized by the US Department of Education. College and universities have driven this trend. Most colleges and universities in the U.S. now require applicants to submit transcripts from accredited high schools. In order to be accepted, transcripts need to come from high schools that have been accredited by a recognized accreditation agency. Generally “recognized” means agencies listed on the Department of Education website, or their designees. This trend started with private high schools, but has now expanded to include many public high schools as well.
The US DoE recognized list contains six regional accreditation agencies. With the exception of trade schools and specialized schools, all general-education colleges and universities in the US are accredited by one of these six agencies. The six regional agencies include the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS), the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU/NWAC), and the Western Association of Schools and College (WASC). A public or private high school accredited by any one of these recognized agencies will have its transcripts accepted by any college or university in the US.
A further wrinkle in this story is that three of these regional accreditation agencies – NCACS, SACS and NWCCU – have now outsourced their entire accreditation process to AdvancED. AdvancED is an independent accreditation agency which has accredited over 33,000 institutions of higher education – in the US, and across the world. For more information on AdvancED, click this link.
When considering any secondary school, but particularly a private high school, parents should verify that the school is not only accredited, but accredited by one of the agencies listed above. This ensures that their students transcript will be accepted by any college or university in the U.S. If the high school does not carry accreditation from one of these recognized agencies, its transcripts may not be accepted by colleges or universities, and this may severely limit educational options for the student.