An E-newsletter on EXCELLENCE in Leadership

October 2023 | Volume 12, No. 2

Accreditation/continuous school improvement  NAD Principals’ Handbook Excerpt

The principal is responsible for leading and managing the accreditation process. The accreditation process is vital for holding the school accountable to accepted standards of quality and facilitating school improvement. Accreditation protocols provide the framework for a continuous process of self-evaluation, accountability, and improvement. This must not be seen as a one-time event squeezed into a busy school calendar once every few years. Rather, this process provides the opportunity for engaging stakeholders in self-evaluation, and identifying areas of strength and areas for improvement in the school. Students, teachers, parents, board members, and the administration should have opportunity to review data that measure school programs and work on action plans that will lead to school improvement.

All Adventist schools are accredited by the Adventist Accrediting Association, Inc. Most secondary schools are also accredited by a regional accrediting body. Material and resources about the evaluative process are available from the NAD Office of Education website. The local conference office of education (LCOE) and the union conference office of education (UCOE) will provide direction about the accreditation process and how to prepare the necessary reports.

The principal must:

  • Be familiar with the most recent visiting committee report, noting especially the areas for improvement and the approved Action Plans.
  • Prepare the annual Progress Report, which is a response to the areas for improvement, and report on progress in completing the Action Plans.
  • Organize and supervise the self-study process. (See the instructions for completing the self-study report in the NAD Evaluative Criteria.)

NAD Accreditation Documents

Available on the Adventist Education website

School Improvement Steps

  • Develop a school profile
  • Define beliefs and mission
  • Define desired results and mission
  • Analyze instructional and organizational effectiveness
  • Develop action plans
  • Implement the plan and document results

Things I Wish
I’d Known Earlier

By Teryl Loeffler
Retired Educator, Conference Superintendent, and Union Associate Director




When considering the topics of accreditation and continuous school improvement, many school administrators have not yet figured out how these two processes can be one and the same. Having had the opportunity to attend almost all academy school accreditation visits within the Pacific Union Conference territory over the past eleven years, it is probably safe to say that most school administrators see accreditation as an interruption blip that comes around every three years or so, rather than anything connected to school improvement.

With many thanks to those school administrators willing to share their accreditation/continuous school improvement (CSI) journey, I pleasantly discovered they were telling the same experience story. The question I posed to them was quite simple, "As you think back to your own accreditation learning curve, what do you wish you had known earlier on?" The items listed below are quotes from those who are demonstrating a quality connection between accreditation and CSI on their school campuses:

“I'm very glad that I went on accreditation visits before I ever had to lead the self-study process as self-study coordinator or principal. I got a larger sense of what good schools do on a continuing basis to plan and to improve learning and growth for students.”

“Visiting committee members aren't 'Out to get you,' but they instead want to help you focus on ways to make your school's planning and programs more effective.”

“I wish we hadn't focused so much on answering the questions/prompts with lists of what we do. I wish we had focused on evaluating what was effective or ineffective and how those things could be improved to impact student growth.”

“I wish I had been better able to delegate the responsibilities…I carried too much of the weight and worry alone when many in every school community care enough and are professional enough to help in the process.”

“The accreditation process has now become a mindset to plan and prioritize improvements with an eye toward data analysis and stakeholder accountability.”

“There is nothing to fear. The visiting team is a peer coach, wanting to and looking for ways to support student (and adult) growth and learning at your school.”

“Own it. [Accreditation] is not something done to you. It is not only a tool for school improvement, but school EMPOWERMENT.”

“The process can bring your community together and also be a tool for PR in your community. It can be a great time to celebrate student growth and what the school does to support that growth. I have found that sharing evidence and findings of the [self-study] report is powerful PR in the community.”

“I do everything I can to encourage my faculty and staff that the accreditation process is not scary and that it is actually there to help us.”

“The fear came from a lack of understanding how the process could be helpful to the growth process.”

“Now that I know the visiting committee really is rooting for the school, it doesn't feel scary or vulnerable to be transparent.”

“Part of the success is due to strategically placing the right people in the focus groups.”

“The [accreditation] process is a valuable way to address issues at school and not just another thing to do. In fact, that is the reason for the process.”

While visiting schools, I have often asked, “If there were no such thing as accreditation, would you still want your school to improve?” How good it is that accreditation can be and should be a significant tool to drive the CSI process. Continuous school improvement is not another initiative. The goal of CSI should be aimed at improving student outcomes. Accreditation coupled with CSI is an excellent framework for monitoring the good work already happening and using data to make improvements over time.

And most importantly, CSI, through accreditation, keeps students at the center. It enables students to use their own data to understand better what's helping them learn and improve and what's not. In schools with a culture of continuous improvement, students begin to take ownership of their learning and set goals for themselves. The conversations between teachers and students become a two-way street, with teachers helping students understand how they can master class material, and students providing feedback to teachers about the most effective instruction type.

Finally, it is important to remember that CSI through accreditation is an adaptive challenge. There is no single tool or resource that is the all-encompassing answer. However, with the involvement of all stakeholder groups focused on student learning, there will be successful and transparent accreditation visits, and schools will thrive in a culture of continuous improvement.

Embracing Accreditation for Effective School Improvement

By Matthew Jakobsons

Principal— Sacramento

Adventist Academy

Accreditation visits can be a source of stress for principals and teachers. However, it is important to recognize the significance of accreditation in ensuring continuous improvement in our schools. This process involves multiple stakeholder groups, including school boards, teachers, staff, community members, alumni, and students, which can challenge school leaders. This article will discuss approaches to help teams embrace accreditation and integrate it with daily operations for continuous school improvement in K-12 campuses.

To establish an effective school improvement process through accreditation, it is crucial to change the perception that accreditation work is separate from the primary responsibilities of school leaders. Accreditation is not an isolated task but an ongoing process of improvement. It serves as a tool to enhance the quality of education and ensure that schools meet established standards. Therefore, accreditation should be viewed as a vital part of a principal's role in improving students' educational experience academically, socially, emotionally, and spiritually.

To successfully incorporate accreditation into daily school life, it is essential to prioritize it at all levels of the organization. This involves making accreditation a part of the daily, weekly, monthly, and annual school experience. Here are some strategies to achieve this:

Inclusion in Daily Activities

Integrate accreditation into daily school activities by incorporating it into weekly assemblies or chapels. Highlight students who have successfully met learning outcomes to celebrate achievements and build ownership among this valuable stakeholder group.

Incorporation into Instruction

Teachers should work to align all classroom activities, lessons, and assessments with clearly defined learning outcomes. This ensures a high-quality educational experience for students and aligns daily, weekly, and monthly work with short and long-term strategic objectives.

Staff Meetings

Regularly discuss accreditation during staff meetings. Principals and teachers can address accreditation-related topics, share progress updates, and identify improvement areas. Involve the entire staff to share the workload, generate new ideas, and foster a collective responsibility. This joint responsibility is one of the most critical aspects of alignment because if any member of the team does not believe the work of school improvement is their responsibility, the entire team will suffer.

Board Meetings

Make accreditation work, progress reports, and brainstorming improvement ideas a recurring agenda item at every board meeting. School boards play a crucial role in the accreditation process, and their support and understanding of the work teachers do on behalf of students and families are essential. Reporting on accreditation efforts at board meetings keeps stakeholders informed and engaged.

Strategic Planning

Principals should incorporate accreditation into their short and long-term planning to allow for the setting of clear goals and timelines. Annual reviews and progress assessments should be included in the school's strategic planning process at the board level.

Embracing accreditation and aligning it with daily school operations is essential for creating an effective school improvement process on our campuses. Accreditation, which is the work of school improvement, should be seen as the primary responsibility of school leaders. Viewing accreditation as an ongoing process rather than a one-time event can lead to continuous improvement and benefit the entire school community.

Making the Self-Study Report a Living Document

By Shawn Thomas
Principal—San Diego Academy

San Diego Academy was in the full throes of the accreditation process when I accepted the call to serve as principal in July 2022. Before me, the interim principal and the school's self-study coordinator had formed the focus groups, gathered data, and facilitated the focus group leaders in writing the reports. When I joined the team, it became a matter of scale, relevance, and desire. Were all 100-plus pages in the working accreditation document valuable and necessary? Did the reports aptly capture who and what San Diego Academy is or desires to be? I spent many summer afternoons reflecting on these two essential questions and the data. Reading through the documents was helpful to me because they provided an in-depth historical perspective that built upon my knowledge of the academy from my prior informal roles in the community as a parent and DEI committee member. As I read, I filtered the narrative and data through each of these lenses. Additionally, I applied what I had learned in the public school system throughout my career about reports, data, accreditation, and human nature.

Getting Started

  • Humans are harsh self-critics.
  • Standardized data are inherently flawed.
  • Next steps are only meaningful to the extent that they meet the community's needs they are grounded in.
  • Classroom-level data are typically the most valuable and often dismissed as anecdotal.
  • Playing to the strengths of the team forges a sustainable path ahead.

Focused on making our self-study report a living and contemporary document, or paraphrasing counsel from our visiting committee chairperson, “What meaningful work were we willing to engage in on an ongoing basis—beyond the accreditation process?” I spent time in various PLC configurations, listening and dialoguing with staff to understand their strengths, feedback, and concerns. The process unfolded organically and yielded such changes as systematizing our student data collection methods, departmentalizing our junior high math and science classes, revising our high school science course sequence, revising our Senior Portfolio project, and determining that our FAITH acronym is our vision for student success vs. school-wide learning outcomes.

What did I know?

I recommend the following for leading successfully during an accreditation process:

  • Resist the urge to succumb to the pressure to “impress.”
  • Value everyday successes and celebrate seemingly ordinary progress.
  • Chronicle a story that indicates that every interaction with a student is a data point that informs how we can best serve them.
  • Empower your instructional team to implement effective instructional strategies regardless of whether they are old, new, or experimental.
  • Encourage all ideas to come to the table.
  • Assemble a broad team.

Take Away

We will continue to strengthen these strands, refine how we serve our students, and prepare them as 21st Century Learners and, more importantly, 21st Century Believers.


Newsletter Editor

Berit von Pohle, Editor

Vice President for Education

Ed Boyatt, Editorial Advisor

Issue Coordinator

Berit von Pohle

Vice President for Education

Pacific Union Conference