ISACS committee visit begins Nov. 10


Colin Will

Dr. Cindy Richter works to compile the self-study report that will be presented to the Independent Schools Association of the Central States team on Nov. 10. Dr. Richter describes her role as “shepherding the process.” The last time an ISACS team visited SPA was in 2012.

Ask any student about private school accreditation, and chances are they’ll know next to nothing about it.

“I know that it’s a thing, but I don’t really understand the process,” senior Zach Dyar said

Ninth grader Maddy Fisher expressed similar sentiments when asked whether she knew about accreditation. “I’ve heard the committee mentioned a couple times in my classes. But otherwise, not really.”

But for Cindy Richter, Assistant Head of School for Academic Programs, the accreditation process is a constant concern. Over the course of seven years, she and her colleagues work to produce a rigorous self-study of the school’s performance in all areas from student life to academics, and across all three divisions. A team from the Independent Schools Association of the Central States will arrive Nov. 10 to assess the school for themselves, and provide feedback on how the school can improve.

“It’s a really healthy process,” Richter said, “It’s not something a student would notice in their daily life, but it’s just part of that structure behind the scenes that makes this a really great school.”

ISACS is a Minnesota Department of Education-approved organization that, among other things, reviews and assesses independent high schools to determine whether or not they should be “accredited,” or certified as quality institutions. 

It’s a really healthy process. ”

— Cindy Richter

However, in SPA’s case, it’s not a question of whether SPA is good enough, but rather if it is the best it can be.

ISACS provided feedback on their last visit in 2012, and SPA took it into account. Dr. Richter explains how she hopes the same will happen this year.

Richter said, “SPA is a really strong and vibrant school. We’re in a good position. We know we have a clear mission. We have a new strategic plan. We have some beautiful buildings, awesome kids, awesome teachers… we’re in a strong position. And we expect that the visiting team will see all those strengths, [but] no school is perfect. So what I’m hoping is that the visiting team can give us feedback in a few areas that might really help us.”

On Nov. 13, the visiting team will meet with Head of School Bryn Roberts and then SPA faculty to discuss the results of the visit.

The purpose of the visit is simple. 

“They’re looking at what we said in the self-study that we wanted to focus on to see if they would agree, but they’re also welcome to tell us anything else that they may think would help us,” Richter said.

The self-study process included progress reports, financial audits, schoolwide surveys and committees, in addition to the final self-study report that was compiled and submitted to ISACS.

“It’s a lot of work,” Richter said. “As a community, we’ve done a lot of work for several years to get ready for this. And I think that work is worth it because families deserve to know that we are accredited and we will live up to what they expect of us.”