Many people have heard that buzzword “accreditation” before, but have no idea what that actually means. Private schools often advertise with their accreditation credentials, while public schools rarely mention it. In fact, the public high school I graduated from lost its accreditation a few years ago, yet kids still graduated and got jobs or enrolled in college like they did every other year before that.
What is accreditation?
Any brick-and-mortar or online school can be accredited by an oversight organization. It is a very involved and expensive process requiring teachers and administrators to compile detailed reports about all aspects of the school. Then, a team from the accrediting organization visits the school (if it is a physical building) for several days and verifies that everything in the report is actually true. They look into the certifications of the employees, the finances of the school, safety of the school building, assessment scores of the students, graduation rates and attendance records, etc. The process has to be repeated in certain intervals of years.
Accreditation cannot be done for individual courses. If an online provider is promising an accredited diploma, it means that your child has to follow their entire set program. The online school provides a sequence of courses that must be followed, with some options to choose from. They set deadlines for the completion of the work and provide grading and record-keeping.
The issue of accreditation becomes confusing because many online schools also sell just their curriculum to be done independently. So, your child ends up using the same materials as those that follow the accredited program; however, because you are not tied to their timelines and grading expectations, you are not covered by the accreditation. The accreditation process is not even focused much on the curriculum content.
Is there any benefit to using an accredited program?
If you want to hand off most of the responsibilities of schooling to an online school, then I would highly recommend using an accredited school. It gives you some assurance that the school is on sound financial footing and will not take your money and shut down in 2 months. It also offers some guarantee that the course content is in line with grade-level standards expected by the accreditation organization. However, anyone can set up an accrediting agency, so look into the organization before blindly trusting their stamp of approval. Customer beware, also, that the claims of accreditation are actually valid.
Using an accredited program, however, does not make your homeschool any more legitimate than using any other source of materials or classes. If you plan on returning your child to school at any point, the receiving school is not going to be impressed by the fact that an accredited program was used for homeschooling. There is no guarantee that high school credits will be allowed to transfer to the school.
Some colleges have additional admissions requirements for students who graduate from non-accredited schools. It usually just means that the student has to provide some assessment score, like SAT or ACT, when the institution is “test-optional” for traditional students. However, right now during the pandemic, it is difficult for any student to get a seat for testing, so many schools are going test-optional across the board.
Can I assign credits for high school courses?
Many people think accreditation has to do with the authority to grant high school credit for a course. As a homeschooling parent, you have that authority without anybody checking up on you. If you would like more information about your ability to grant a transcript and diploma, check out How do you get a diploma in homeschooling? and consult your local homeschool regulations.
If you have other questions about homeschooling, you may find some useful answers at the links below:
- How do I start homeschooling in Maryland?
- Can I start homeschooling in the middle of the year?
- Co-ops, Umbrellas, Tutorials – Oh My!
- How much does it cost to homeschool?
- How do you get a diploma in homeschooling?
- What about socialization?
- What happens at a homeschool review?
- How do I show regular, thorough instruction?
- How do we re-enroll in school?
- What is a school year in a homeschool?
- What is Secular Home Education?