Accreditation is an improvement process and an accountability system. It is an ongoing process, not just a status. Using internationally recognized standards, an institution conducts a comprehensive self-study and evaluation, as well as submitting to a rigorous peer review process. The steps outlined below typically take between 2 to 5 years from initial contact to accreditation. Accredited member schools are committed to ongoing school improvement and the planning process continues through the duration of the accreditation term.
When an institution contacts MSA-CESS seeking accreditation, it is sent an interest packet of information which includes a Registration Form, Dues and Fees Schedule, the Standards for Accreditation, and booklet on the basics of accreditation.
Once MSA-CESS receives the Registration Form (and additional documents for international schools), the institution is invited to complete an application to become a Candidate Member for Accreditation. This application requires the institution to respond to the twelve Middle States standards and to provide general background information about the institution and its community.
After reviewing the Candidacy Application, the President of MSA-CESS will determine if the school is ready to host a one-day Candidacy Visit. The visit results in a report generated by the MSA-CESS representative that suggests areas for attention prior to a full team visit, a suggested timeline for completing the accreditation process, and a recommendation regarding the protocol used for the self-study process.
Offer of Candidacy
After the MSA-CESS staff reviews the Candidacy Visit Report, a formal offer of candidacy may be extended to the institution.
MSA-CESS offers a variety of self-study protocols to meet the unique needs of its diverse membership. The MSA-CESS Staff will help an institution determine which protocol is best for them. Each protocol varies, but all include a review of the institution's Foundational Documents, the 12 MSA-CESS Standards, and the development of a Plan for Growth and Improvement. The self-study process typically takes between 9 months and 2 years.
The institution will host a 3.5 day visit by a team of peer-reviewers from other accredited institutions. The team will validate the institution's findings in its self-study and will make recommendations for improvement.
MSA-CESS has a multi-tier review process for all team reports to ensure consistency, objectivity, and quality. Recommendations are made by the team, the MSA-CESS staff, an advisory committee, the Membership and Accreditation Committee, and finally the full Commissions make an accreditation decision. This decision is made in April for visits that have taken place in the fall, or in October for visits that have taken place in the spring.
The accreditation term is 7 years for all protocols (with the exception of career and technical institutions using the REF C-T protocol which carries a 5 year term). Institutions are expected to adhere to the Standards and, at the least, conduct annual reviews of their Plan. A mid-term report is due in the third year of accreditation; a visit is required if it is the institution's first term of accreditation, if there are outstanding issues in the report, or if the institution requests a visit.