Accreditation Overview

Background | What is Accreditation? | Mission Statement | Purposes | History | Is Accreditation Necessary? | Is Accreditation Desirable?


Founded in 1995, the National Association of Private Catholic and Independent Schools is dedicated to strengthening and promoting Catholic education through accreditation.

Curriculum is more than the 3- Rs, that is, the subjects contained in the academic life of the school. It is the totality of program and daily activity that involve and affect the student. NAPCIS measures for accreditation employ the Standards of Excellence to the curriculum, which demand fidelity to Roman Catholic teachings and implementation of sound academic principles. The Standards of Excellence are the essential component of NAPCIS accreditation and are incorporated in the Standards and Criteria for accreditation.

What is Accreditation?

Accreditation is “certification that a school meets all formal official requirements of academic excellence, curriculum, facilities, etc.” (Random House Dictionary of the English Language)

Applied to private Catholic and independent schools, NAPCIS accreditation is a process of evaluation applying Standards of Excellence to identified criteria, leading to a recognition of professional status and credibility within the academic and general community.

As with most accrediting agencies, the self- evaluation and documentation of program, which NAPCIS requires for accreditation, is integral to the accreditation process. But unlike other accrediting agencies, NAPCIS designs the process of school assessment and self-examination to preserve the integrity of the unique identity and needs of private Catholic and independent schools as they work to preserve and teach the Catholic Faith in obedience to the Pope and Magisterium.

The evaluation must be self-motivated and self-directed for it to be a constructive assessment of a school\’s strengths and weaknesses directed at the preservation of the school’s mission and the improvement and betterment of the school\’s program. The evaluation, however, must also be a reasonable and ordinary part of school activity, that is, an ongoing demonstration and documentation of a school\’s success i n fulfilling its stated purpose and objectives; it cannot be an extraordinary display that is disruptive and artificial in its scripting and staging.

Standards of Excellence are primary to a school\’s mission, and must be established to preserve and promote the specific kind of education offered in private Catholic and independent schools.

The Standards and Criteria for Accreditation offer guidelines for the school in the evaluation of its institution and program aimed at the continuous improvement and growth of the school\’s Catholic mission.

NAPCIS accreditation provides for administrators, teachers, and parents a means of identifying schools that are effective in adhering to their Catholic mission and quality of education – schools that have a demonstrated focus on salvation of souls and academic excellence.

Mission Statement

Pope John Paul II has issued a call to the laity:
First: Grow in the Lord, because the fruitfulness  of the lay apostolate depends on our living union with Christ,

Restore vitality to our ecclesial lay movement.  Organizing  into  various apostolic groups will be decisive in the years to come, but we must be able to count on sufficient formation, on the sense of ecclesial unity, and on a profound spirituality, and

Make the Church present with a new consistency and originality in our society in its spiritual, economic and cultural progress.

The formation of small private Catholic and independent schools is the community response by Catholic families to the threefold charge of the Pope. One of the most exciting signs of hope that the Holy Spirit is causing to happen in the Catholic Church today is the growing number of private Catholic and independent schools.

The National Association of Private Catholic and Independent Schools is an accrediting association for elementary and secondary private Catholic and independent schools.

Its service as an accrediting agency is an extension of the association\’s mission to provide for the spiritual and academic growth and welfare of our nation\’s schoolchildren. Fulfillment of this mission comes with strict obedience to the Magisterium of the Holy Roman Catholic Church and from the implementation of sound and demonstrated practices of education.

NAPCIS accreditation unites its member schools in their primary inseparable dual purpose of salvation of souls and academic excellence.

A commitment to academic excellence demands that a school apply standards that support and ensure a quality of program that is uncompromising in its integrity and its performance related to a student\’s learning and formation.

Catholic education espouses academic excellence in the secular pursuit of excellence for its own sake, and to affect the temporal activities and ambitions of the student. But Catholic education confirms its identity and fulfills its mission in the supernatural context of its pursuit of excellence, that is, in giving honor and glory to God. Salvation of souls and academic excellence direct all actions in Catholic education.

It is in living a testimony Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam that a school is sanctioned and sanctified. It is this activity that accredits the Catholic school.

Purposes of Accreditation

Having established Standards of Excellence for private Catholic and independent schools, the primary activity of the accreditation commission of NAPCIS is to identify member elementary and secondary schools that offer quality religious and general education programs, and meet NAPCIS accreditation requirements. It also provides encouragement to schools that desire to raise their requirements to the level of NAPCIS standards.

A Brief History of Accreditation in the United States

The practice of accreditation in the United States began in the early 1960\’s as a means for post-secondary educational institutions (colleges and universities) to demonstrate to the Federal government a basic level of quality in their institution and programs for the purpose of certifying eligibility to receive Federal funds, which include Stafford loans, grants, and research monies.

A non-governmental peer process of evaluation of post-secondary educational institutions and programs was established, developed and administered by private educational associations and commissions of regional or national scope.

The United States Department of Education recognizes, for the purpose of accrediting institutions of post-secondary education, six regional accrediting agencies, and one national accrediting agency. The recognition by the United States Department of Education of accrediting agencies applies ONLY to post-secondary education.

It is important to note that there are no federally recognized accrediting agencies for elementary and secondary schools.

Accreditation, and the requirement of accreditation, for elementary and secondary schools is regulated by the States with wide variation in its application.

For the same reason that accreditation was initiated for post-secondary education, accreditation became the means for States to identify and qualify elementary and secondary public schools looking to receive federal funds allocated to States for federally-mandated programs and State funds distributed to schools through their State Department of Education.

The six regional accrediting associations, aware of the fiscal opportunity available i n elementary and secondary school accreditation, expanded their accrediting field to include a commission for elementary and secondary schools. The United States Department of Education did not extend its recognition of the six regional accrediting associations and commissions to include elementary and secondary schools.

Is Accreditation of Private Schools Necessary?

States have assumed the authority (not without challenge) to regulate private schools, but any regulation resulting from this presumption must conform with the First Amendment guarantee of the free exercise of religion.

NAPCIS recognizes and defends the Principle of Subsidiarity and the duty of parents as the primary (not just the “first” in a series, but primary) educators of their children. Parents have a sovereign right to claim freedom from any government intervention in the education of their children. Any state regulation of private schools in the area of accreditation, licensing, or registration impinges on this fundamental principle and duty.

While accreditation of elementary and secondary public schools has become common practice, most states do not engage in any certification of private elementary or secondary schools or they choose to certify them by simply approving them.

States that involve themselves in regulating the certification of private schools through accreditation have been known to insist on the use of one of the six regional accrediting associations, claiming that they have the status of “national” recognition as accrediting agencies. These states make no distinction between “federal” and “national” in their recognition of accrediting associations when, in fact, this distinction  is essential. There  are no  “federally”   recognized   accreditation associations  for  elementary  and secondary  schools  (that  includes  the  six regional accrediting associations). These states have chosen not to qualify the limitation of the “national” status in their regulations, or are not aware of the qualification of that status as applying to “federal” recognition of these agencies only for post-secondary education.

The regional associations have been criticized and avoided as accrediting agencies for private Catholic and independent schools. The broad spectrum of schools in their regional concern allows for no particular model of excellence and no focus on a specific kind of program or school mission. They frequently overstep their bounds and mandates, prompting increased and nagging questions over the legitimacy of their requirements.

Even in a regional association\’s alliance with another organization, such as the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) in the process of certification/accreditation, the application of religious and educational standards remains too loose. Excellence has become a relative concept reduced to the lowest common denominator standards of measurement.

The last thirty years has witnessed a decline in education standards, especially i n elementary and secondary schools.

Goals 2000, the national education strategy to “revolutionize schools,” as President Bush described his “war on illiteracy” was the result of a study published i n November of 1988 entitled A SCANS Report For America 2000 . SCANS is the acronym for Secretary\’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills. One would expect the “Secretary”, in this case, to be the Secretary of Education, but, in fact, the “Secretary” is the Secretary of Labor! The report was generated and written by the Department of Labor, and subtitled, “Learning a Living: A Blueprint for High Performance”. It is a survey of what American industry expects of the 21st century worker.

The marriage of Goals 2000 and Outcome Based Education (OBE) was destined, but no ta match made in heaven. The offspring of this union has contaminated every public school at every level of instruction and program across this country and around the world with relativism, values clarification, and political correctness. Schools now teach attitudes not academics. Attitude adjustment and training has replaced academic excellence as the goal, the “outcome” of public education.

Private Catholic and independent schools cannot rest assured that the contamination has not spread to their schools. They have not been spared. Goals 2000 and OBE have entered private education through the doors of state teacher credentialing programs and the intrusive process of accreditation offered through the six regional accrediting associations.

Accreditation is not necessary. Students are accepted into colleges based on the evaluation of their application (the student essay has taken on significant screening importance), the results of their Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or American College Testing (ACT) scores and their high school Grade Point Average (GPA). The high school\’s accreditation or non- accreditation status is not a factor in the evaluation of a high-schooler\’s eligibility for college admission. Maybe, as long as 20—25 years ago, colleges and universities did consider the accreditation status of the applicant’s high school. But no longer. Why not? The answer may be summed up in two words: home schooling! Because of the growing number of home schooled students that are applying for college admission, as well as the fact that the best colleges and universities across the country are actively recruiting home schooled students, the accreditation issue is moot in the college admission process. The ever-increasing numbers of home schooled students and the demonstrated quality of their education documented in the eloquence of their application essay, their stellar achievements i n a wide variety of extra-curricular activities, and in their outstanding SAT and ACT scores and GPAs have required colleges and universities to eliminate school accreditation as a criteria in their admission policies.

While Accreditation is not Necessary, it is Desirable

Parents looking for an alternative for the formation and education of their children must be assured that a private Catholic and independent school lives its stated mission, and meets a demanding set of education standards. They will have this assurance if a school is accredited by NAPCIS, a national accrediting association commissioned to evaluate and accredit private Catholic and independent schools.

In addition, accreditation is often a requirement for the consideration of foundation grants and corporate matching funds.

NAPCIS is the first national accreditor to focus on the specific kind of program offered in private Catholic and independent schools and to offer itself as an alternative accrediting mechanism for schools that wish to show that they excel i n such a field.

Regional accrediting agencies are gatekeepers for large sums of government money, and are responsible for giving a seal of approval to a broad spectrum of schools, rather than holding schools to any particular model. As such, they are involved i n several controversies as political divisions have increased on the question of what constitutes quality and integrity in elementary and secondary education, and what is appropriate or legitimate for accreditors to require.

The NAPCIS Accreditation Commission is a real departure from other accrediting agencies. NAPCIS offers an accreditation with a specific and prestigious meaning to private Catholic and independent schools that provide what NAPCIS considers real teaching and curriculum.

So, while accreditation is not necessary, it is desirable and is now available at no risk to the identity and mission of a private Catholic and independent school.