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If you are a part of the current 31 schools that associate with the American Curriculum in Dubai, by now you have heard about the formation of the KHDA and DSIB’s US Curriculum Schools Division and the requirements that will be put in place for a school to be categorised as a KHDA ‘Authorised American School’ in Dubai. The KHDA is putting into place a requirement for ‘Authorised American Schools’ to obtain the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) accreditation by the 2017-18 academic year. NEASC is the oldest of the 6 regional accrediting bodies in the United States. This requirement has been put in place to establish and ensure that students are offered a curriculum that is based on benchmarked academic standards and attainment on the same level as their American counterparts.

Accreditation is the process of peer review by a non-governmental organisation (NEASC) that evaluates a school’s operations and success against established standards of practice. The standards used for accreditation are developed and based on the best practices of good schools and colleges and reviewed regularly. The NEASC accreditation process has long been recognized as a highly effective means of initiating and maintaining schools’ improvement and alignment with a rigorous set of public standards. NEASC accreditation is internationally respected as a quality seal distinguishing that a school has met high expectations of educational quality and content. Earning the NEASC accreditation gives the American Curriculum Schools of Dubai a source of credibility to the individual school’s curriculum and diploma programmes, equating the school’s performance with that of American based schools.

Accreditation is very different from inspections. Inspections are annual, mandatory visits from government officials and focus on the effectiveness and success of a school’s self-stated outcomes in progress, attainment, learning skills, and socio-emotional development of the students.

Accreditation is a voluntary process and the site visit is a peer review process that takes place in phases. In order for the Accreditation to be successful, all stakeholders (administrators, faculty, staff, students and parents) must be on board with the process and be willing to grow, develop, and evolve into an even more efficient and cohesive learning establishment.

The first stage is a preliminary visit from NEASC. In this visit the representatives establish the standards that will be assessed and determine if a school is ready to begin the accreditation journey.

The second stage is a comprehensive self-study that is a 12-18 month process. In this phase the school participates in an in-depth self- evaluation of their school. The school measures itself against each of the standards that have been established during the visit by the accreditation preliminary team.

The third stage is a site visit. The visiting team is chosen by NEASC and visits the school to determine first hand if the school has met the established standards set forth in the preliminary visit. If the school meets the standards then they are granted NEASC Accreditation.

After accreditation is granted there is a follow up self-report in two years, and a 5-year Renew visit. The entire cycle is a 10 year process that in the end ensures schools are offering tangible and observable evidence of alignment to standards and are dedicated to promoting the core principals of the school’s: Guiding Statements, Teaching & Learning, Governance & Leadership, Faculty and Support Staff, Access to Teaching & Learning, School Culture & Partnerships and Operational Systems.

Once schools have gained NEASC Accreditation, the KHDA can be assured that these schools are offering a curriculum that meets or exceeds the requirements of their counterparts in the United States.

By Chassie Selouane

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