Accreditation at Gateway Virtual Academy

Gateway Virtual Academy, LLC. is a private school accredited through Advanced, now known as COGNIA, offering digital learning, worldwide.

GVA recently hosted an External Review in April, 2019 and was awarded accreditation in June, 2019. Although accreditation is not mandated, GVA made the decision to become accredited through a rigorous quality assurance process and achieved distinction on our first review, Alhamdulilah.

Why It Matters? 

  • Ensures the quality of the school
  • An accredited school “must act with intergrity”
  • Students earn a diploma through an accredited school
  • Transferable credits
  • Required for entry to many colleges

Who is AdvancEd?

AdvancED, now known as COGNIA, is one of the largest communities of education professionals in the world. The organization provides accreditation services to over 32,000 institutions serving over 20 million students worldwide. COGNIA is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that conducts rigorous, on-site external reviews of Pre-K-12 schools and school systems to ensure that all learners realize their full potential. While their expertise is grounded in more than a hundred years of work in school accreditation, COGNIA is far from a typical accrediting agency. Their goal is not to certify that schools are good enough. Rather, their commitment is to help schools continuously improve.

How is Accreditation determined? 

To become accredited by COGNIA requires a significant amount of time and effort on the part of the school.  There are five broad standards that an institution must meet.  For each standard, the school is required to evaluate themselves on a number of specific points; in total, there are 134 aspects of the school that the school must evaluate for themselves first, give evidence for, and then have COGNIA verify.  The five broad standards are as follows:

1. Purpose and Direction – The institution maintains and communicates a purpose and direction that commit to high expectations for learning as well as shared values and beliefs about teaching and learning.
2. Governance and Leadership – The institution operates under governance and leadership that promote and support student performance and institution effectiveness.
3. Teaching and Assessing for Learning – The institution’s curriculum, instructional design and assessment practices guide and ensure teacher effectiveness and student learning.
4. Resources and Support Systems – The institution has resources and provides services that support its purpose and direction to ensure success for all students.
5. Using Results for Continuous Improvement – The institution implements a comprehensive assessment system that generates a range of data about student learning and institution effectiveness and uses the results to guide continuous improvement.

For each of the 134 aspects that are found within these standards, the school rates itself using a 4-point scale:

4) Highly Functional
3) Operational
2) Emerging
1) Not Evident

In order to accurately determine these ratings, the school must do a thorough self-assessment that takes months of discussion and research, since every claim made must have evidence to back it up.

Once the school has completed its self-study, COGNIA visits the school to review all the evidence, and to talk to school staff, parents, and students to see if their opinions are in line with what the school reported.

In addition, every school presents to COGNIA a School Improvement Plan, which consists of actions the school has identified that it will take in the two years after the visit, in order to improve designated aspects of the school.

COGNIA requires proof at the end of the two years that the improvement actions have been taken.

After the visit, the visiting COGNIA team prepares a report of its findings. For a new school, it either recommends the school for accreditation, or recommends that the school not be accredited. This recommendation is sent to a board at COGNIA’s central office, which reviews all reports and recommendations and makes the final decision. Every five years, the school is required to have a new visit by an COGNIA team and this entire process is repeated.

A lot of work goes into this!  But the point of the work is not just to get the status “accredited.” The self-evaluation process is designed to cause the school to dig thoroughly into all the elements of the school — governance, teaching, support systems — and find where it is doing well, and where it needs improvement.  The heart of the accreditation process is that the school embraces a mission to always look for ways to improve.  Gateway Virtual Academy, is dedicated to improve wherever we can, so that we can continually improve the education and services we offer to our families.