Public and Private School Accreditation and Approval Frequently Asked Questions
Updated: July 2012
SBE establishes accreditation procedures and recognizes accrediting bodies for approved private schools.
Accreditation is a voluntary process for granting public recognition to institutions that meet external standards of quality.
Schools can choose whether to seek accreditation. State law does not require public or private schools in Washington to be accredited.
Approval is a mandatory quality assurance process to confirm that a school/district is meeting the basic education requirements of the state. State law requires all schools in Washington to be approved in order to provide education. Schools must be approved before they can seek accreditation.
Approval is mandatory; accreditation is voluntary.
Public school districts must document annually that they meet the minimum requirements for total instructional hour offerings, 180-day school year, and the state-mandated graduation requirements. This documentation is called Basic Education Act compliance.
Private schools must document annually that they meet minimum requirements for health and safety, total instructional hours, certified teachers, 180-day school year, curriculum that includes instruction in designated basic skills in sufficient units to meet State Board of Education graduation requirements, and administrative policies. Private school approval procedures are detailed on OSPI's website.
Students who attend Washington private schools that are not approved are considered truant, unless the student is also engaged in one of the following activities:
Washington schools typically seek accreditation through the AdvancED, Educational Service Districts (ESDs), or other recognized accrediting bodies.
AdvancED. AdvancED is dedicated to advancing excellence in education worldwide. The Northwest Accreditation Commission (NWAC) joined the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement (NCA CASI) and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement (SACS CASI) as an accreditation division of AdvancED. NWAC is one of the six regional accrediting bodies in the United States and serves schools, systems and education providers in seven states including Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington.
Association of Educational Service Districts (AESD). The state's nine ESDs, through their association, have designed a collaborative accreditation process that combines both internal and external appraisal of the school's school improvement planning activities and School Improvement Plan (SIP).
The process requires schools to conduct an in-depth self-evaluation of their SIP and a companion evaluation of the school improvement planning process used to develop the plan. An ESD accreditation process team then conducts a review and schedules a one-day visit to verify understandings of the SIP and the planning process.
For more information regarding accreditation please contact the ESD contacts listed below:
SBE has recognized the accrediting bodies in the following table.