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CAIS Accreditation Process
Accreditation Requirements

An Ongoing Cycle of Improvement

The CAIS Accreditation Process is Designed to Meet the Specific Needs of Independent Schools

  • New members of CAIS hold provisional membership for the first two or three years, before their first formal accreditation.
  • Re-accreditation follows a seven year cycle, with oversight during those seven years adapted to the needs of the individual school.
  • Before each major accreditation visit, schools complete a self-study demonstrating their compliance with shared standards, their specific strengths and areas for growth, and their sustainability as a strong, mission-oriented organization.

Schools are assessed in six key areas:

  1. Institutional Purpose and Core Values
  2. Teaching and Learning
  3. Financial Sustainability
  4. Operational Purpose and Core Values
  5. Institutional Stewardship and Leadership
  6. Institutional Improvement and Sustainability
New School Services

Schools that are considering membership may join the New School Services program. This program provides access to most CAIS events, data, and networking opportunities, as well as support from CAIS staff.

Contact Us

To inquire about becoming a member school or joining the New School Services program, please contact the Director of Member Engagement.

Accreditation Requirements

Membership Requirements


  1. Have a clear written statement of mission and philosophy that informs institutional policies, programs, and practices
  2. Be formally incorporated as a nonprofit organization—or be part of a larger organization that is incorporated in this way—which is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as holding 501(c)(3) status
  3. Be governed by an effective, legitimately constituted, and sufficiently independent governing board, whose members: a) are obligated to avoid any conduct that is not in the best interests of the school or that may create an unlawful conflict of interest, and b) hold the school's institutional health and long-term survival as the board's highest priority
  4. Have inclusive, non-discriminatory policies for admission, hiring, and employment as legally required and which, even if allowed by law, do not permit discrimination based on sexual orientation
  5. Provide a need-based financial aid program, open to students of all backgrounds, that actively promotes socioeconomic diversity, supported by financial resources that are commensurate with student needs and institutional capacity
  6. Be in at least the third year of operation with students enrolled
  7. Provide for the health and safety of students and other members of the school community, including compliance with all applicable laws and regulations
  8. Have an audit, performed by an independent certified public
    accounting firm, for the fiscal year immediately before the school
    submits a full self-study and hosts a CAIS accreditation team, and
    have an audit or review in each intervening year, with the overall
    objective of providing clear evidence of the school's long-term
    financial sustainability
  9. Have a Head or Heads of School—or individuals with similar titles who serve as the school's chief executive leaders—appointed and employed by the Board (i.e., the entity directly responsible for governing the school,) who report directly to the Board, and who are fully accountable to the Board (rather than to any other entity)
  10. Comply with all of the requirements of the CAIS accreditation process and demonstrate an ongoing commitment to school and educational program improvement

Application Timeline:

  • Applications for CAIS provisional membership received by Jan. 1 of a give year may be considered in time for the subsequent Fall.
  • After a school submits its membership application, a short initial visit is conducted by two members of the CAIS Board of Directors.
  • If the school meets CAIS standards (available on request), the school will be granted provisional membership in the Association.
  • Accreditation for full membership takes place in either the second or third school year after the school year in which provisional membership was approved.
  • A provisional member school is eligible to attend CAIS events.

Please contact us for initial questions about membership and a list of required documentation.

Apply for Membership