Catholic Schools: Accreditation is important for Catholic schools

By Ned Vanders, Ed.D.

Superintendent of Catholic Schools

In accordance with the decision of the Catholic Bishops of the State of Texas, each school recognized by its bishop as a Catholic school, is to be accredited by the Texas Catholic Conference Education Department (TCCED). The Diocese of Austin Strategic Plan for Catholic Schools (2009) has as one of its goals that schools build a culture of continuous improvement to ensure they meet or exceed the rigorous standards established by the TCCED. The acknowledgment of accreditation ensures that each school meets and exceeds quality standards expected by the community. The strategic plan further states that all schools in the Diocese of Austin consider undergoing the accreditation process of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

In May 2013, the Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Austin (CSDA) entered into an integrated partnership with SACS in which SACS would recognize the TCCED accreditation process. Before the partnership, a school seeking SACS accreditation would have to host two visiting teams with two separate visits – one for TCCED and another for SACS – or a combined visit with the two teams together. St. Louis Catholic School in Austin, St. Joseph Catholic School in Bryan, and St. Austin Catholic School in Austin were already SACS accredited schools prior to the partnership. This integrated partnership streamlines the process, as well as the work and resources involved in preparing for an accreditation visit.

As a result, the CSDA has been awarded accreditation with the South Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement (SACS CASI). The action was taken at the AdvancED Accreditation Commission meeting held last June.

Dr. Mark Elgart, President/CEO of AdvancED, the parent organization of SACS CASI, stated, "SACS CASI Accreditation is a rigorous process that focuses the entire school on the primary goal of creating lifelong learners. CSDA is to be commended for engaging in this process and demonstrating a commitment to continuous improvement." This means that the CSDA is recognized nationally as a quality system of schools. Since SACS CASI accreditation is recognized across state lines, this not only eases the transfer process as students move from accredited school to accredited school, but also assures parents/guardians that the school is meeting nationally accepted standards for quality and successful professional practice.

Both TCCED and SACS accreditation demonstrate to our school communities our commitment to excellence, our openness to external review and feedback, and our desire to be the best we can be on behalf of the students we serve. The rigorous accreditation process focuses the CSDA on raising student achievement, providing a safe and enriching learning environment, creating lifelong learners, and maintaining efficient and effective operations.

As SACS accredited schools, CSDA is part of the AdvancED network of over 32,000 schools in more than 71 countries that are committed to continuous quality improvement through accreditation. SACS CASI provides nationally recognized accreditation, the purpose of which is continuous school improvement focused on increasing student performance.

Although CSDA is just two months into the 2013-2014 academic year, activities and plans are already underway for the next school year. CSDA is hosting numerous open houses over the next several months, leading up to registration in January and February for the 2014-2015 school year. Please check the www.csdatx.org website calendar for the dates and times of the open houses, as well as the ad on Page 13 in this issue.

Catholic schools assist parents in the religious formation and education of their children. Catholic schools integrate Catholic teaching and values into every aspect of the learning process and experience of school so that young people’s journey into adulthood will also be a journey of faith and a growing internalization of these teachings and values. Providing an excellent academic education, Catholic schools help young people reach their God-given potential.

It is never too late to begin thinking about enrolling in a Catholic school. In fact, many Catholic schools enroll students throughout the school year.

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