You can now view the IACS November 2014 Newsletter! In it you will find information on next week’s IACS Annual Membership Meeting, the upcoming Iowa ACE Education Celebration Event, and more!
We have some great updates on Independent Accreditation, our Annual Members Meeting in November, and other information!
You can read the entire newsletter here:
There is no question Iowa’s financial institutions and college lending services are seeing a tangible problem with student debt and lower levels of financial literacy. There is no shortage of stories about skyrocketing student debt, maxed out credit cards, and and consumers struggling to know their options.
For a number of years, the Iowa Association of Christian Schools (IACS) has been involved in discussions at the Capitol about how best to improve financial literacy education in Iowa. Since the passage of the Iowa Core Curriculum, Iowa’s schools have been required (mandated) to teach financial literacy and address the standards as part of the Iowa Core’s “21st Century Skills” framework. The real challenges for schools have been finding quality resources and a lack of emphasis on the area as schools adjust to an ever-changing demographic and regulatory environment.
IACS has always believed there is a win-win solution that avoids additional onerous and duplicative mandates while providing the resources needed for schools to implement quality financial literacy programming. We are proud to have been a part of a conversation last year with members of the business community, legislators, and the Iowa Department of Education on a way forward and we have had representation on the Financial Literacy Work Team that came out of those discussions.
Our goal was to figure out the best way to provide resources and training to schools, how best to clarify the standards to make them easier to implement, and gather information on how schools are meeting the requirement. We also are interested in collecting examples of what is working well and share these with the rest of the education community across the State. As an organization that is concerned about financial literacy and always opposed to unfunded mandates, we believe the work team recommendations accomplish all of these goals in a way that will work best for Iowa’s students and stakeholders in the private sector.
We stand ready to help improve communication and raise the visibility of this important issue across the state. We thank Director Brad Buck and his staff, Governor Branstad and his staff, and the members of the Work Team for their passion for the issue and their willingness to work on solutions that respect the role of local schools and provide meaningful help implementing financial literacy standards.
You can read the Department’s press release and the Work Group’s recommendations here:
What is Independent Accreditation?
During the 2013 Iowa legislative session, as part of a larger Ed Reform Bill (HF 215), 256.11, subsection 16 was created in the Iowa Code establishing “Independent Accreditation” for nonpublic schools in the State of Iowa. This allows schools to be accredited by an independent accrediting agency on a list of six or more such agencies kept by the Iowa Department of Education in lieu of accreditation by the State Board. Iowa was one of only two States that required accreditation by the State at the time the law was passed.
Which Accrediting Agencies are Included?
Currently, the following agencies may be used in lieu of State accreditation:
Christian Schools International (CSI)
Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI)
National Lutheran School Accreditation (NLSA)
Independent Schools Association of the Central States (ISACS)
Why Choose Independent Accreditation?
Independent Accreditation is important to Iowa’s private schools for two reasons: First, it allows schools to choose an accrediting body that understands and respects its role and mission as a private school. Second, these independent accrediting agencies are not simply compliance-based accreditation models. These accrediting bodies actually increase accountability while simultaneously increasing flexibility and keeping the schools accountable to reach its stated mission, purpose, and goals as an education institution. Without exception, those schools accredited by one of the included independent accrediting agencies find the process to be extremely meaningful, impactful, and more rigorous than other options.
There is no one-size-fits-all education model for students and there is not an adequate one-size-fits-all accreditation for schools either. The key is to encourage schools to increase accountability in a way that is laser-focused on achieving their stated goals as an education provider.
What Must Schools do to be Independently Accredited?
Schools must work with an independent accrediting agency to become fully accredited. “Candidate” or “Pending” accreditation status does not equal “Independently Accredited” for the purposes of Iowa law. Once this is achieved, the independent accrediting agency will include that school on its list of accredited schools and the State will recognize those schools as accredited just like any State accredited or “college-prep” private high school. The school needs to take no action or file any requests to become independently accredited.
Is This Program Permanent?
In order to get independent accreditation passed, a sunset was included. The program is repealed on July 1, 2020 barring any changes to the Iowa Code. We are very confident that the Iowa Legislature will work with us to remove that sunset. Schools accredited by independent accrediting agencies include some of the highest achieving schools in the State, and we see no reason to believe that this program should be or will be repealed. The Iowa Association of Christian Schools (IACS) will be working hard to ensure this program becomes permanent.
Is There Reporting to the State Department of Education?
Yes. The reporting is being worked out but will include a basic BEDS report for reporting enrollment (needed to verify eligibility for various programs) and a simplified CSIP report we have yet to see. The reporting should be very minimal. There are no Iowa Department of Education site visits for independently accredited schools.
Is There Any Other Reason for an Independently Accredited School to Contact The State?
Generally, no. If an independently-accredited school has problems accessing transportation, textbook, tax credit programs, or other benefits, they should contact the IACS and we will direct that school to the appropriate department or person who can help. That may be the Department of Education, the Department of Revenue, or other resources.
If the school has questions about programing, curriculum, innovative programs, or other school governance questions; the school should contact its independent accrediting agency to make sure their decisions are within the guidelines of their accreditation.
Most of our independently accredited schools will require that all teachers (or most depending on requirements of religious classes) be licensed by the State of Iowa. The process for licensure is determined by the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners (BOEE), but the decision on the timing and other qualifications for hire are up to the school within the confines of requirements for accreditation as determined by its accrediting agency.
What Regulations Must These Schools Adhere to Outside of the Accreditation Standards?
Our interpretation of the law and the intent of the legislature was that health and safety standards (local fire and building codes, criminal codes, etc.) must be met. Also, any requirements of Federal programs such as free and reduced lunch and title funding must be met including any reporting or interaction with State agencies tasked with administrating that program. The Department of Education has indicated that it believes there may be other requirements, but we have yet to hear of or see these requirements. We will work with the Department and/or the legislature to make any clarifications we believe necessary as they arise.
The Iowa legislature is set to adjourn for the year later this week! It’s not too late for the Iowa House and Senate to fully fund transportation services for nonpublic students and increase funding for textbooks/technology for nonpublic schools. If you haven’t yet, please take utilize our action alert center to easily email your Representative and Senator right now!