Performance Standards for K12 and Postsecondary Institutions

Excellence in education relies on high standards

All education institutions share a fundamental common goal: to inspire and equip learners so that they succeed to their highest potential. The current, research-based standards acknowledge that commonality through one set of standards. They define the practices of a good education institution and provide the criteria for improvement efforts that will energetically and visibly grow learners, teachers, leaders, and organizations in any K–12 or postsecondary non-degree granting setting. Early learning and extended learning institutions, and state education agencies continue to have dedicated standards.

Another hallmark of a high-quality school is that it continually strives for improvement. Like the member institutions we serve, Cognia works to innovate and improve, by embarking on a research and development cycle that takes place at least every six years. Our 2022 standards, and the important concepts and key characteristics are the foundation for Cognia’s approach to continuous improvement—not just to accreditation. These are the elements that should guide every educational institution to ensure high-quality teaching and learning and overall organizational effectiveness

Performance Standards

Four key characteristics are evident when institutions effectively adopt the Cognia Performance Standards and engage in Cognia’s peer review process for accreditation and continuous improvement.

Key Characteristic 1: Culture of Learning

The institution’s focus on the challenges, joys, and opportunities for learning, and the coherence with its mission and vision

A good institution nurtures and sustains a healthy culture for learning. In a healthy culture, learners, parents, and educators feel connected to the purpose and work of the institution as well as behave in alignment with the stated values and norms. The institution also demonstrates evidence that reflects the mission, beliefs, and expectations of the institution (e.g., student work; physical appearance of the institution; participation in institution activities; parents attendance at institution functions).

A healthy culture is evident where:

  • Stakeholders are actively engaged and supportive of the institution’s mission
  • Learners’ academic and non-academic needs and interests are the focal point
  • Stakeholders are included and supported

Standards

STANDARD 1: Leaders cultivate and sustain a culture that demonstrates respect, fairness, equity, and inclusion, and is free from bias.


STANDARD 2: Learners’ well-being is at the heart of the institution’s guiding principles such as mission, purpose, and beliefs.


STANDARD 3: Leaders actively engage stakeholders to support the institution’s priorities and guiding principles that promote learners’ academic growth and well-being.


STANDARD 4: Learners benefit from a formal structure that fosters positive relationships with peers and adults.


STANDARD 5: Professional staff members embrace effective collegiality and collaboration in support of learners.


STANDARD 6: Professional staff members receive the support they need to strengthen their professional practice.

Key Characteristic 2: Leadership for Learning

The responsibility of an institution’s leaders to influence and impact all aspects of the institution in positive ways

The ability of a leader to provide leadership for learning is a key attribute of a good institution. Leaders who engage in their own learning while tangibly supporting the learning process for learners and teachers have a significant positive impact on the success of others. Leaders must also communicate the learning expectations for all learners and teachers, continuously, with consistency and purpose. The expectations are embedded in the culture of the institution, reflected by learners’, teachers’, and leaders’ behaviors and attitudes toward learning.

Leadership for learning is demonstrated when school leaders:

  • Communicate expectations for learning
  • Influence and impact the culture in positive ways
  • Model and engage in learning while supporting others to do so

Standards

STANDARD 7: Leaders guide professional staff members in the continuous improvement process focused on learners’ experiences and needs.


STANDARD 8: The governing authority demonstrates a commitment to learners by collaborating with leaders to uphold the institution’s priorities and to drive continuous improvement.


STANDARD 9: Leaders cultivate effective individual and collective leadership among stakeholders.


STANDARD 10: Leaders demonstrate expertise in recruiting, supervising, and evaluating professional staff members to optimize learning.


STANDARD 11: Leaders create and maintain institutional structures and processes that support learners and staff members in both stable and changing environments.


STANDARD 12: Professional staff members implement curriculum and instruction that are aligned for relevancy, inclusion, and effectiveness.


STANDARD 13: Qualified personnel instruct and assist learners and each other in support of the institution’s mission, purpose, and beliefs.


STANDARD 14: Curriculum and instruction are augmented by reliable information resources and materials that advance learning and support learners’ personal interests.


STANDARD 15: Learners’ needs drive the equitable allocation and management of human, material, digital, and fiscal resources.

Key Characteristic 3: Engagement of Learning

The inclusion of all learners in the learning process, and their development of confidence and love of learning

A good institution ensures that learners are engaged in the learning environment. Learners who are engaged in the learning environment participate with confidence and display agency over their own learning. A good institution adopts policies and engages in practices that support all learners being included in the learning process.

Engagement is demonstrated when all learners:

  • Are included in the learning process
  • Participate with confidence
  • Have agency over their learning

Standards

STANDARD 16: Learners experience curriculum and instruction that emphasize the value of diverse cultures, backgrounds, and abilities.


STANDARD 17: Learners have equitable opportunities to realize their learning potential.


STANDARD 18: Learners are immersed in an environment that fosters lifelong skills including creativity, curiosity, risk taking, collaboration, and design thinking.


STANDARD 19: Learners are immersed in an environment that promotes and respects student voice and responsibility for their learning.


STANDARD 20: Learners engage in experiences that promote and develop their self-confidence and love of learning.


STANDARD 21: Instruction is characterized by high expectations and learner-centered practices.


STANDARD 22: Instruction is monitored and adjusted to advance and deepen individual learners’ knowledge and understanding of the curriculum.


STANDARD 23: Professional staff members integrate digital resources that deepen and advance learners’ engagement with instruction and stimulate their curiosity.

Key Characteristic 4: Growth in Learning

The growth of learners in the programs and curricula provided by the institution and their readiness to successfully transition to next levels of learning

A good institution positively impacts learners throughout their journey of learning. A positive impact on the learner is reflected in readiness to engage in and preparedness for the next transition in their learning. Growth in learning is also reflected in learners’ ability to meet expectations in knowledge and skill acquisition.

Growth is evident when:

  • Learners possess non-academic skills that ensure readiness to learn
  • Learners’ academic achievement reflects preparedness to learn
  • Learners attain knowledge and skills necessary to achieve goals for learning

Standards

STANDARD 24: Leaders use data and input from a variety of sources to make decisions for learners’ and staff members’ growth and well-being.


STANDARD 25: Leaders promote action research by professional staff members to improve their practice and advance learning.


STANDARD 26: Leaders regularly evaluate instructional programs and organizational conditions to improve instruction and advance learning.


STANDARD 27: Learners’ diverse academic and non-academic needs are identified and effectively addressed through appropriate interventions.


STANDARD 28: With support, learners pursue individual goals including the acquisition of academic and non-academic skills important for their educational futures and careers.


STANDARD 29: Understanding learners’ needs and interests drives the design, delivery, application, and evaluation of professional learning.


STANDARD 30: Learners’ progress is measured through a balanced system that includes assessment both for learning and of learning.

CULTURE OF LEARNING

Key Characteristic 1: Culture of Learning

The institution’s focus on the challenges, joys, and opportunities for learning, and the coherence with its mission and vision

A good institution nurtures and sustains a healthy culture for learning. In a healthy culture, learners, parents, and educators feel connected to the purpose and work of the institution as well as behave in alignment with the stated values and norms. The institution also demonstrates evidence that reflects the mission, beliefs, and expectations of the institution (e.g., student work; physical appearance of the institution; participation in institution activities; parents attendance at institution functions).

A healthy culture is evident where:

  • Stakeholders are actively engaged and supportive of the institution’s mission
  • Learners’ academic and non-academic needs and interests are the focal point
  • Stakeholders are included and supported

Standards

STANDARD 1: Leaders cultivate and sustain a culture that demonstrates respect, fairness, equity, and inclusion, and is free from bias.


STANDARD 2: Learners’ well-being is at the heart of the institution’s guiding principles such as mission, purpose, and beliefs.


STANDARD 3: Leaders actively engage stakeholders to support the institution’s priorities and guiding principles that promote learners’ academic growth and well-being.


STANDARD 4: Learners benefit from a formal structure that fosters positive relationships with peers and adults.


STANDARD 5: Professional staff members embrace effective collegiality and collaboration in support of learners.


STANDARD 6: Professional staff members receive the support they need to strengthen their professional practice.

LEADERSHIP FOR LEARNING

Key Characteristic 2: Leadership for Learning

The responsibility of an institution’s leaders to influence and impact all aspects of the institution in positive ways

The ability of a leader to provide leadership for learning is a key attribute of a good institution. Leaders who engage in their own learning while tangibly supporting the learning process for learners and teachers have a significant positive impact on the success of others. Leaders must also communicate the learning expectations for all learners and teachers, continuously, with consistency and purpose. The expectations are embedded in the culture of the institution, reflected by learners’, teachers’, and leaders’ behaviors and attitudes toward learning.

Leadership for learning is demonstrated when school leaders:

  • Communicate expectations for learning
  • Influence and impact the culture in positive ways
  • Model and engage in learning while supporting others to do so

Standards

STANDARD 7: Leaders guide professional staff members in the continuous improvement process focused on learners’ experiences and needs.


STANDARD 8: The governing authority demonstrates a commitment to learners by collaborating with leaders to uphold the institution’s priorities and to drive continuous improvement.


STANDARD 9: Leaders cultivate effective individual and collective leadership among stakeholders.


STANDARD 10: Leaders demonstrate expertise in recruiting, supervising, and evaluating professional staff members to optimize learning.


STANDARD 11: Leaders create and maintain institutional structures and processes that support learners and staff members in both stable and changing environments.


STANDARD 12: Professional staff members implement curriculum and instruction that are aligned for relevancy, inclusion, and effectiveness.


STANDARD 13: Qualified personnel instruct and assist learners and each other in support of the institution’s mission, purpose, and beliefs.


STANDARD 14: Curriculum and instruction are augmented by reliable information resources and materials that advance learning and support learners’ personal interests.


STANDARD 15: Learners’ needs drive the equitable allocation and management of human, material, digital, and fiscal resources.

ENGAGEMENT OF LEARNING

Key Characteristic 3: Engagement of Learning

The inclusion of all learners in the learning process, and their development of confidence and love of learning

A good institution ensures that learners are engaged in the learning environment. Learners who are engaged in the learning environment participate with confidence and display agency over their own learning. A good institution adopts policies and engages in practices that support all learners being included in the learning process.

Engagement is demonstrated when all learners:

  • Are included in the learning process
  • Participate with confidence
  • Have agency over their learning

Standards

STANDARD 16: Learners experience curriculum and instruction that emphasize the value of diverse cultures, backgrounds, and abilities.


STANDARD 17: Learners have equitable opportunities to realize their learning potential.


STANDARD 18: Learners are immersed in an environment that fosters lifelong skills including creativity, curiosity, risk taking, collaboration, and design thinking.


STANDARD 19: Learners are immersed in an environment that promotes and respects student voice and responsibility for their learning.


STANDARD 20: Learners engage in experiences that promote and develop their self-confidence and love of learning.


STANDARD 21: Instruction is characterized by high expectations and learner-centered practices.


STANDARD 22: Instruction is monitored and adjusted to advance and deepen individual learners’ knowledge and understanding of the curriculum.


STANDARD 23: Professional staff members integrate digital resources that deepen and advance learners’ engagement with instruction and stimulate their curiosity.

GROWTH IN LEARNING

Key Characteristic 4: Growth in Learning

The growth of learners in the programs and curricula provided by the institution and their readiness to successfully transition to next levels of learning

A good institution positively impacts learners throughout their journey of learning. A positive impact on the learner is reflected in readiness to engage in and preparedness for the next transition in their learning. Growth in learning is also reflected in learners’ ability to meet expectations in knowledge and skill acquisition.

Growth is evident when:

  • Learners possess non-academic skills that ensure readiness to learn
  • Learners’ academic achievement reflects preparedness to learn
  • Learners attain knowledge and skills necessary to achieve goals for learning

Standards

STANDARD 24: Leaders use data and input from a variety of sources to make decisions for learners’ and staff members’ growth and well-being.


STANDARD 25: Leaders promote action research by professional staff members to improve their practice and advance learning.


STANDARD 26: Leaders regularly evaluate instructional programs and organizational conditions to improve instruction and advance learning.


STANDARD 27: Learners’ diverse academic and non-academic needs are identified and effectively addressed through appropriate interventions.


STANDARD 28: With support, learners pursue individual goals including the acquisition of academic and non-academic skills important for their educational futures and careers.


STANDARD 29: Understanding learners’ needs and interests drives the design, delivery, application, and evaluation of professional learning.


STANDARD 30: Learners’ progress is measured through a balanced system that includes assessment both for learning and of learning.

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