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What’s Next for Your Top Performing School?

What’s Next for Your Top Performing School?

By Henry Cram, Ed.D., Middle States Association

Your school has earned accreditation. Your students consistently perform at the highest levels, and you have an excellent understanding as to how to continue achieving those high results. So, what’s next? It can be tempting to sit back and simply rest on your laurels. But the hallmark of the best schools around the world is that no matter how well they may be doing, their goal is to outperform their previous best.

At the Middle States Association Commissions on Elementary and Secondary Schools, we offer our highest performing member schools a different path to accreditation or reaccreditation through our Sustaining Excellence protocol.

Developing, Implementing, Sharing Action Research

Under the Sustaining Excellence protocol, in lieu of a traditional self-study for reaccreditation, schools have the option to focus their time, energy and resources on:

  1. Identifying an aspect of the school’s education program, services and/or learning environment the school and its stakeholders desire to grow and/or improve in order to produce even higher levels of student performance or creative ways to measure that student performance;

  2. Discovering how current research informs efforts to grow and improve the aspect of the school’s education program, services, and/or learning environment on which the school wishes to focus;

  3. Developing a proposal for an action research initiative to demonstrate application of that research in the living laboratory of the school;

  4. Implementing the research initiative and documenting the results of implementation; and,

  5. Sharing what was learned from the implementation with the broader education community in the form of a colloquium.

At Middle States, we believe that action research not only helps individual schools continuously grow and improve, but that sharing that research will have a broader effect on improving education for everyone.

Models for Academic Programs Around the Globe

Middle States also offers our member schools an opportunity to take accreditation to the next level through our Programs of Distinction.

The Middle States Programs of Distinction initiative recognizes high-achieving schools for their ongoing accomplishments in specific areas and serves as an external validation that the program is world class.

The Programs of Distinction process helps accredited schools identify strengths and areas for growth in particular program areas and provides inspiration and guidance for attaining a high quality program. The process involves a rigorous self-study, followed by an on-site visit by one or more educators who specialize in the specific program area.

Middle States accredited schools are eligible to apply for Program of Distinction recognition for outstanding programs in one or more of the following:

  1. STEM: Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics

  2. Early Childhood Education

  3. Global Literacies

  4. Music

  5. School Counseling

  6. Service Learning

  7. Visual Arts

  8. World Languages.

In 2016, we awarded three Programs of Distinction, including Saint John’s School in Puerto Rico for its early childhood program.

We also recognized the Carol Morgan School in the Dominican Republic in 2015 for its music program.

For programs that may still need to grow and improve, the process is an excellent tool for self-assessment and external evaluation, and an effective guide toward attaining Program of Distinction recognition in the future.

A 125-Year Legacy

The Middle States Association Commissions on Elementary and Secondary Schools (MSA-CESS) is a worldwide leader in accreditation and school improvement and the only accrediting agency offering these two opportunities to its member schools.

For over 125 years, Middle States has been helping school leaders establish and reach their goals, develop strategic plans, promote staff development and advance student achievement.  With more than 2,700 accredited schools and school systems in 34 states and nearly 100 countries, MSA-CESS is proud of its continuing legacy and its ongoing innovations to meet the challenges of improving education in the 21st century.

For information on the Middle States Association’s accreditation and program options, quality assurance and value, visit


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