Accountability, Research, and Measurement
District Accreditation

The Cognia accreditation process engages the entire school community in a continuous process of self-evaluation and improvement. The overall aim is to help districts/systems be the best they can on behalf of the students they serve. To earn and maintain accreditation, the school system must meet the Cognia Standards for Quality School Systems and accreditation policies, engage in continuous improvement, and demonstrate quality assurance through external Engagement Reviews. Additionally, the school system must respond to and act on the Engagement Review Team's required actions and submit an Accreditation Progress Report at prescribed intervals following the Engagement Review.

Three major components of District Accreditation:

Engaging in Continuous Improvement: The district articulates and implements a planning framework for district improvement that describes the future direction and purpose for the school system and its schools, describes the current conditions of the school system and its schools focusing on student learning, describes goals designed specifically to address student learning needs and to build the capacity of the internal systems of the district to address such priorities, and provides evidence of the results stemming from improvement efforts. Additionally, the district monitors and adjusts instructional and organizational practices in response to the evidence collected.

Meeting Standards: The district complies with and maintains adherence to the Cognia Standards for Quality School Systems. Additionally, each school in the district is expected to meet Cognia Standards for Quality Schools. The Cognia Standards are research-based, comprehensive quality statements that describe conditions necessary to achieve and maintain high levels of student performance and organizational effectiveness.

Demonstrating Quality Assurance: The school system must demonstrate quality assurance through institutional integrity, peer review, and documentation of the results of its improvement efforts. Through institutional integrity, the system strives to deliver on its promise and to be what it claims to be to both the school community and community at large. Through peer review, the efforts of the system and its schools to improve student learning are strengthened. Through documentation of the results of its efforts to improve, the system and its schools are able to determine their strengths and weaknesses and to plan for further improvement. Under the district accreditation framework, the district is responsible for designing and implementing a quality assurance process for its schools and the district. This includes conducting a comprehensive internal review and hosting an Cognia Engagement Review Team every five years. This team, composed of professional peers from outside the district, is responsible for validating compliance with accreditation standards; assessing the efforts of the district and its schools in engaging continuous improvement; and evaluating the effectiveness of an established internal quality assurance process. The Cognia Engagement Review Team also makes visits to schools within the district to ensure alignment and coordination throughout the district and conduct interviews with stakeholders.

Benefits of District Accreditation

  • It is based on effective schools’ research derived from the work of the National Study of School Evaluation (NSSE). This research indicates that school improvement support by central office and system-wide structures can be more effective than improvement efforts without such support.
  • It is based on effective leadership research findings that note that leaders of high performing school districts develop and maintain quality systems, which provide:
    • Direction by setting expectations and guidelines
    • Feedback and assistance (to monitor achievement of performance/expectations)
    • A culture that builds understanding and commitment
    • For the use of data and research findings to guide decisions and actions
    • Resources including professional learning and training opportunities as well as time, human, and fiscal support.
  • Its foundation ensures continuity and collaboration in planning for improvement, anchored in a common vision for education among all its schools, because each school’s improvement goals must complement that of the district.
  • It supports and enhances a common language of school improvement communication across content areas and grade levels, as well as across individual schools, feeder schools, and district lines of responsibility.
  • It ensures an Engagement Review visit every five years by a team of trained peer professionals from outside the district.
  • It holds the promise of significantly reducing costs associated with hosting separate peer review teams for each school every five years.

District Accreditation is a process designed to recognize school systems that embrace improving student learning as a systemic process. As such, District Accreditation provides school systems with a process that supports, enhances, and stimulates growth and improvement throughout the school system.

For more information about the standards involved in Cognia accreditation and about how the system is implemented, click on the icon below to access the Cognia site: