Accreditation is critical to the success of your school. It can affect everything from your school’s reputation and enrollment to funding and the caliber of teachers you attract to your program.
Make no mistake, curriculum is at the core of a school’s ability to earn accreditation. Unfortunately, accreditation can be a tricky subject to nail down, and it can be even harder to know if the curriculum you pick up is legitimate.
We’re here to help your school understand the relationship between online curricula, accreditation, and SmartFox K12 Online Learning. Wondering if SmartFox’s K-12 curriculum is accredited?
Read on for the answer to that common question, along with a deep dive into the accreditation process.
First, why is accreditation important?
Wondering why accreditation is such a big deal? Accreditation is essentially a system that assures parents, students, faculty, and staff of a school’s credibility. It signals that schools meet quality standards for administration, academics, and other student services.
Why is it important to a school’s well-being?
Accreditation can impact all aspects of a school’s ability to function. It can dictate funding, establish a school’s reputation, and prove legitimacy to parents. Before enrolling students in any school, parents want to be assured that the work their students are doing in the classroom is backed by education professionals. In short, accreditation status suggests a school’s coursework and methods are effective.
What’s more, accreditation describes a school’s ability to transfer credits, coursework, and other qualifiers to outside institutions. Basically, it helps to set a value for credits, so parents, students, and counselors can be confident colleges will accept the work students do.
How does accreditation work?
We get the same question often: “Is SmartFox’s K-12 curriculum accredited?” The answer can be complicated if you don’t first understand the curriculum accreditation process.
Simply put, a set curriculum in itself can’t earn accreditation. However, the quality of your school’s curriculum can drastically influence your institution’s ability to earn and retain accreditation.
Before a school earns accreditation, it is evaluated on its ability to uphold standards and meet expected learning outcomes. The school needs to prove it has quality learning content prepared, but it also needs to show that it can deliver that content effectively.
Here’s how the accreditation process generally works:
- Regulators establish standards. In most cases, the accreditation agency will work with your school to set standards and lay out expectations.
- You prepare a self-study. Next, your school will compare those standards to your program’s performance and capabilities. This step usually includes crafting a detailed self-evaluation of your institution.
- Regulators conduct an evaluation. The agency will select an on-site team or directly dive into your school’s program to decide if it meets the agency’s standards.
- You earn an initial status. Depending on the results of the evaluation, your school will earn an initial accreditation or pre-accreditation status. Once your status is granted, the agency will list your school in its official publications.
- The agency monitors your school. After your school earns accreditation, the agency will continue to monitor the institution’s performance to make sure your school is upholding the agency’s standards.
- The regulator sets up a re-evaluation. Periodically, the accreditation agency will re-evaluate your school and decide if the original status still applies or a new accreditation status should be assigned.
How Does Curriculum Affect Accreditation?
Although curriculum itself doesn’t come “pre-accredited,” it can play a critical role in your school’s accreditation status. Here are some things to consider if you want curriculum to give your school a strong chance of being accredited.
The curriculum needs to meet regulatory standards. No, any old curriculum won’t do. If the curriculum you offer doesn’t meet regulatory standards and produce positive learning outcomes, your school will be in a tough spot. That’s why a curriculum’s quality matters. Quality considerations could include the content as well as how it is presented to students.
The curriculum’s efficacy should be measurable. Remember, your school will need to be able to prove your curriculum’s effectiveness. That means thorough reporting is a must. It is also important that your administrators can easily download reports and send them on to regulators.
Recording is essential. To meet standards, delivering strong content to students isn’t enough. Your school will also need to show it’s equipped to record student performance, keep track of completed courses, monitor credits, and address complaints.
Curriculum should be customizable. Although you should select a trustworthy curriculum, it shouldn’t be treated like a one-size-fits-all learning solution. Accreditation committees will expect your school to keep coursework current and accurate. That means you’ll want your school’s curriculum to be easy to tweak and adjust to your students’ needs, as well as regulators’ expectations.
How does SmartFox K12’s curriculum improve accreditation chances?
We’ve already established that a curriculum itself isn’t accredited. However, SmartFox K12’s curriculum does increase your accreditation chances. Here’s why.
Curriculum is trusted.
SmartFox’s curriculum is aligned with University of California standards. Wondering how that helps your accreditation odds?
The University of California’s approval is considered a gold standard when it comes to postsecondary expectations. So, even if your school operates outside California, you have the assurance that the curriculum is backed by a top-tier university. Therefore, your school’s curriculum will likely exceed the standards of other regulators.
What’s more, SmartFox is currently being used by accredited schools that are excelling. If accreditors throughout the region are already approving curriculum in other K-12 schools, you can be more confident your school can use it to earn accreditation.
Finally, SmartFox has helped K-12 schools build out coursework that meets the standards of some of the strictest entities out there. That includes national regulatory powerhouses such as the NCAA. Again, accreditation will depend on your individual school, but using a curriculum that has been approved by national bodies in the past adds an extra layer of reliability to your coursework.
Coursework is designed to improve performance.
SmartFox coursework is built to bring out the best in students. It includes self-paced learning and Smart Sessions. These learning modules adapt to students and their abilities, which means each student can advance at their own pace and spend extra time on difficult subjects.
Additionally, coursework is customizable and teachers can deliver curriculum using well-known programs. Zoom and Qualtrics are built into the learning management system (LMS), so it’s easy to connect with students and show regulators how your programs enhance the learning process.
Reporting is easy.
It is easy to overlook the importance of reporting. However, it plays a critical role in gaining accreditation, maintaining accreditation status, and proving outcomes. In fact, it is so important, it inspired us to design a platform that simplifies reporting.
The SmartFox platform integrates the student information system (SIS) and learning management system (LMS). That means information pours into one easy-to-use system, which makes it simpler to measure student and teacher outcomes. More importantly, the system makes it easy to download reports and send data on to accreditation specialists.
Have questions about accreditation?
SmartFox’s curriculum was designed by accreditation specialists and education professionals. And we want to help your school earn the status it needs so you can focus on improving your students’ lives.
Want to learn more about accreditation and SmartFox’s online learning platform? Contact our experts to learn more about how our curriculum is designed to improve your accreditation status.
About the Author
Mark is the co-founder of Method Schools and SmartFox and has been working in the marketing and finance areas of K-12 education for two decades. He holds a B.S. in Business from Utah Valley University and an MBA from Brigham Young University. In his spare time he’s usually on his mountain bike.