The Georgia Association of Christian Schools recognizes the need for an instrument which will assist in the assessment of the educational performance of its member schools. This GACS program as outlined and described in the Accreditation Manual (2013 edition) is viewed as one means for improving the effectiveness of a school’s curricular and instructional programs.
GACS is aware that accreditation cannot guarantee academic quality in a school. It will, however, cause a Christian school to evaluate its educational procedures and to receive counsel from experienced Christian educators. The accreditation process will also help the school identify any weaknesses in its programs and offer suggestions on how these areas can be strengthened. In this way, accreditation should assist a Christian school in improving its educational program. GACS is committed to helping member schools produce desirable results.
One GACS Administrator writes:
“The Accreditation Program is a valuable tool in keeping our school focused and up to date in every aspect of the Christian school ministry. The administration and staff of the GACS as well as the administrators and principals of the member school are outstanding and knowledgeable educators and have always been courteous and ready to assist in any way possible.”
Fully accreditted GACS schools can take advantage of the cooperative between GACS and NACSAA (North American Christian School Accrediting Agency) that has relationships with AdvancedEd and Middle States accreditations.
Reasons for Accreditation
Educational quality in Christian schools is essential. While there are a number of reasons why this is true, the three reasons given below are the most persuasive:
- A Scriptural ministry, such as Christian education, is accountable to the Lord. II Corinthians 5:10 states, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” Those involved in Christian education are primarily accountable to God for quality results. With such weight of responsibility, it is wise to request the assistance of godly, trained fellow servants because “…in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14).
- Scriptural ministry, such as Christian education, is accountable for quality to secular entities in accordance with such Bible passages as 1 Thessalonians 4:12, “That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without…” Those “without” are herein defined as non-believers who may judge our Lord by the impact of what we do and what we offer in the Christian school. Christian education, like any ministry, must offer effective curricular and instructional programs as a testimony to the Lord.
- A Scriptural ministry which is dependent upon consumers of that ministry, as is the case of the Christian school, must offer a quality program to those involved in the ministry. Otherwise, they will no longer participate in the school program. In this case, accreditation becomes one means of serving the interests of everyone involved. It has been observed that those Christian schools which are growing are schools that have a great concern for quality.
Definition of Accreditation
Applied to the Christian school movement, accreditation is an evaluation by educational peers to verify that the school is accomplishing its stated mission and purpose. Essential elements in the accreditation process are:
- A clear statement of a Christian school’s educational philosophy and goals; the assessment of quality is made in terms of these factors;
- An on-going directed self study which is focused on the achievement of the school’s goals; the self study should be continuous, not sporadic;
- An on-site review by a selected group of peers of the school’s educational program in operation.
As operationally defined by the Georgia Association of Christian Schools, the following statement of characteristics would apply to accreditation:
- It is totally voluntary and, therefore, cannot mandate compliance or control behavior except by persuasion and peer influence.
- It is primarily an example of on-going self-assessment that serves as a testimony to the various communities which are impacted by the Christian school.
- It provides for outside consultation through the on-site review, closely tied to the school’s own statement of philosophy and educational goals.
Accreditation requires the school to evaluate its educational process objectively. For this reason, GACS encourages its member schools to undergo the accreditation process.
Policy Statement on Accreditation
In keeping with the definition of accreditation given above, GACS has adopted the following policy statement on school accreditation:
Quality in educational programming offered by Christian schools is essential for the continued growth and effectiveness of Christian education. Accreditation is one means of self-improvement that promotes quality and a positive Christian testimony both within and without the sphere of Christian education.
GACS believes its accreditation program should be continued and promoted. It is based upon a system of voluntary self-improvement and peer review using criteria that are generally accepted as indicators of quality. Such a program should allow for the uniqueness of individual schools.
Realizing that the decision to participate in the Georgia Association of Christian Schools accreditation program is the option of each member school, accreditation should never be viewed as a test for fellowship or even for membership in the Georgia Association of Christian Schools.
Recognition of GACS Accreditation
The Georgia Private School Accreditation Council (GAPSAC) is an association of accrediting organizations guided by a Board of Directors of which the Georgia Association of Christian Schools (GACS) is a founding member. GAPSAC is primarily focused on the accreditation of affliated non-public elementary and secondary schools in Georgia. The accreditation program of the Georgia Association of Christian Schools has been recognized and approved by the following Georgia state boards and authorities:
The Georgia Board of Education
The Georgia Board of Education has approved the Georgia Private School Accrediting Commission (GAPSAC) of which the Georgia Association of Christian Schools is a charter member. All schools provisionally or fully accredited by the GACS are entitled to benefits, including transfer of grades and credits to public schools, on the same basis as students from public schools. No additional tests over and above those required by public school students will have to be taken by students from GACS accredited schools, nor any additional measures whatsoever will be required.
Georgia Board of Regents
The Georgia Board of Regents has approved graduates from GACS provisionally or fully accredited schools for entrance to colleges of the University System of Georgia (USG). However, individual colleges of the USG may place additional requirements, over and above those required for graduation by the Georgia Board of Education, on all students (from both public and private schools) applying to a particular college. Usually these requirements are based on the “Freshman Index”, which is a combination of SAT scores and course grades from the student’s cumulative grade point average (GPA).
For this reason, we recommend that any student planning to attend a college or university of the USG contact that particular college or those colleges no later than the beginning of the junior year of high school to be assured that the student is on track to meet admission requirements. Information on the Freshman Index may be requested from any college or university belonging to the USG.
Georgia Student Finance Authority (HOPE Scholarship)
Graduates of schools which are fully accredited by the Georgia Association of Christian Schools are eligible for HOPE Scholarships on the same basis as are graduates from public schools in Georgia. Application for these scholarships may be made through the Georgia college or university to which the student has applied.
The Georgia Association of Christian Schools has developed the Professional Employee Certification Program (PECP) for the benefit of its member schools. The Program provides objective standards for evaluating and recognizing the preparation and experience of current and prospective employees.
PECP also provides parents with the assurance that professional educators have examined the credentials of those to whom they entrust their children for academic training. This Program requires that the employing school recommend the applicant and that he/she subscribes wholeheartedly to the GACS Statement of Faith.
This service to schools and parents must not be misconstrued as a license to teach or perform other duties in a Christian school, and it should not be represented as such to parents or to governmental entities. The program basically provides a uniform procedure for appraising professional credentials.
Certificates are issued in the following categories: Paraprofessional, Kindergarten Teacher, Early Childhood or Elementary Teacher, Middle School Teacher, Secondary Teacher, Special Education Teacher, Counselor, and Administrator. The application procedure and endorsements required are listed in the Certification section of the Accreditation Program Manual.
- The applicant must be employed by a GACS member school.
- The applicant must subscribe, without reservation, to the GACS Statement of Faith.
- The school employing the applicant must recommend him/her as worthy of certification.
- The applicant must meet the stated academic requirements.
- The application fee must accompany the application.
- The applicant must have official transcripts of all college education sent by the colleges directly to the school at which he/she is currently employed, and then the administrator sends all of the official transcripts along with the application to the GACS Office.