As of the 2010-11 school year, NAIS represented approximately 1, 400 member independent schools and associations in the US, serving more than 562, 000 students and 121, 000 teachers, administrators, and other staff.
Membership in NAIS is open to independent pre-college schools that are operated by nonprofit organizations. To become a full member of NAIS, a school must have operated for at least five years and must be accredited by an accrediting organization approved by NAIS.
In response to requests from several state, regional, and national accrediting organizations, the NAIS Commission on Accreditation was established by the NAIS Board of Trustees in 2001 and convened for the first time in 2002. The 19 member Commission’s work is intended to assure the quality of independent school accrediting programs.
A primary responsibility of the Commission is to developing a public understanding of, and credibility for, state and regional accrediting programs. In addition, the Commission,
- develops criteria for effective independent school accreditation practices, exemplary standards, and models of successful accreditation policies and procedures.
- engages in research to inform accreditation practice.
The Commission meets on a regular basis and is guided by established operating protocols. It is composed of members from state and regional accrediting associations that are members of NAIS was well as at-large members, and NAIS Board members.
The member associations of the Commission are accountable to one another through a process patterned on the independent school accreditation model. Over the course of a 10-year cycle, associations prepare a self-study demonstrating compliance with the Criteria for Effective Independent School Accreditation Practices. The criteria provide common ground for member associations by delineating best practices, policies, and procedures. In addition, associations use the Model Core Standards — a set of “ideal” standards — in assessing their own standards. As part of the process of “accrediting the accreditors”, each member association hosts a visit from other Commissioners, receives written recommendations from the Commission, and engages in follow-up activities designed to improve the state or regional accreditation process. As with school accreditation, this will serve two purposes: institutional improvement and quality assurance.