Accreditation &

Cognia accreditation and certification are like no others. Our research-based performance standards give your institution a shared framework to achieve measurable, meaningful improvement. No other accrediting agency gives you actionable data from a team of professional reviewers—or continues to guide you to leverage your strengths for improvement. Get more for your efforts—and proudly display a seal of educational quality that is recognized worldwide.

A premier diagnostic tool for school improvement

For more than 125 years, schools have been inviting Cognia and our legacy agencies, NCA CASI | NWAC | SACS CASI, into their classrooms. Why? Because we go beyond evaluating school quality. We provide trusted expertise and actionable ideas that move the needle on school quality.

Accreditation is a launchpad for school improvement. Based on rigorous research-based standards and evidence-based criteria, the process probes the whole institution—from policies to learning conditions and cultural context—to determine how well the parts work together to meet the needs of every learner.

Accreditation isn’t about passing a one-time inspection—it helps education providers meet improvement goals and sustain commitments to better learner outcomes. Furthermore, the Cognia system accreditation model provides an efficient approach to have your entire system reviewed once per accreditation cycle and delivers pivotal insights to help set improvement priorities across schools.

The accreditation process holds you accountable for improvement and for having a growth mindset for your organization. It forces you to ask: 'How are we going to improve all aspects of our work to better serve students tomorrow than we are today?' ”
Will Kesler
Head of School, Battle Ground Academy
Franklin, Tennessee
Member since 1895

Accreditation: The pursuit of excellence

Cognia Performance Standards are at the heart of continuous improvement and accreditation. They define the characteristics of a good education institution and provide guidelines for efforts that will energetically and visibly grow learners, teachers, leaders, and organizations.

New standards

Every six years, we complete a development cycle to examine and update the Cognia Performance Standards. The current Cognia Performance Standards, which went into effect on July 1, 2022, apply to all K–12 and postsecondary institutions except Early Learning and Extended Learning, which have separate standards.

More insight, more collaboration

The current accreditation protocol is six years for most institutions.  The six-year accreditation term adds more time for institutions to identify, implement, and evaluate improvement activities; and additional touchpoints throughout the term will provide more support from Cognia.

Institutions new to Cognia begin with to familiarize themselves with Cognia and the accreditation process. All institutions engage in the three main phases of accreditation: Self-Assessment, Engagement, and Progress.

Essential to accreditation. as well as certification processes, is the Engagement Review—an in-depth exploration of your institution that uses your own evidence, plus stakeholder input and expert analysis, to identify noteworthy practices and next steps for improvements.

You get guidance and support from dedicated Cognia experts through all the phases and activities.

Get an infographic for a visualization of the above process.

To qualify for accreditation, education providers must follow Cognia’s accreditation policies.

See examples of educational practices that are aligned with Cognia Performance Standards.

The Global Commission

The Cognia Global Commission grants accreditation and certification for all institutions and systems within their authority. Read about the commission board members and their respective areas of expertise.

STEM Certification: Recognizing innovation

Cognia’s STEM Certification guides leaders with a specific framework and improvement process, culminating in recognition for programs that demonstrate a strong and effective STEM focus. If your institution seeks STEM Certification, you will host a STEM Certification Review simultaneously with your Accreditation Engagement Review. The STEM Certification Review is conducted by experienced educators, including specialists in the STEM disciplines.

The evaluators look for hallmarks of quality as described in Cognia’s STEM Certification Standards. These standards, which Cognia identified through robust research and extensive observations, focus on characteristics like problem-based experiential learning and the integration of STEM thinking into a broad range of activities and learning opportunities.

STEM Certification from Cognia empowers your Early Learning and K–12 institutions to:

  • Convey to parents and staff your commitment to high-quality STEM education
  • Build awareness in your community and increase expectations for STEM education
  • Encourage enrollment with a unique differentiator
Having a STEM program that has been recognized by Cognia is something that we felt would be of value to our parents.”
Kate Latham
Student and Faculty Achievement Coach
Primrose School of Burlington, Massachusetts and LEGO Education Master Educator
Member since 2016

Competency-Based Education (CBE) Certification: Recognizing individual mastery

Cognia’s Competency Based Education (CBE) Certification provides the framework for designing and successfully implementing competency-based education in a school or school system. Working in collaboration with the Aurora Institute’s CompetencyWorks initiative, the world’s leading research organization for competency-based education, Cognia has developed CBE Standards that provide an opportunity for self-evaluation and recognition by Cognia, the world’s largest education improvement agency.

Cognia recognizes that interest in the CBE movement is growing rapidly across the United States and around the world. Cognia’s CBE Standards and certification process can ensure that schools and school systems can effectively embed the key elements of CBE. Cognia’s CBE certification empowers your schools to:

  • Demonstrate commitment to a unique learning plan for all students
  • Recruit teachers and learners who are committed to the concepts of CBE
  • Demonstrate to your community your pledge to cutting-edge education practices

Clear goals, visible accomplishments

We work with schools and systems of all types and sizes across the globe to help you meet the needs of every student. Cognia provides a clear set of standards and criteria for accreditation and certification. Meeting those standards results in a valuable recognition of excellence.

Meaningful feedback

Our experienced teams gather evidence about the quality of your learning environments using Cognia’s Performance Standards and research instruments. A thorough report gives you both a broad understanding and detailed insights into where your school or system excels and where you need to invest resources.

Informed evaluators

Many factors in your community, such as enrollment, geography, and economics, influence your decisions and planning. Educators who understand your environment and challenges lead your review. They leverage your stakeholder perceptions and classroom observation results to form a complete picture before finalizing an evaluation.

Ongoing support for your efforts

Your Cognia team connects with you beyond your review, checking in to discuss your progress and help you overcome obstacles. You also have ongoing access to the online Cognia Improvement Platform, tools and resources that help you measure key components of school quality and student engagement.

Valued recognition

Accreditation and certification are accomplishments worth sharing, to let your community know that your institution upholds high standards of education quality. Schools and systems that further stand out—as demonstrated through their Engagement Reviews—are designated Cognia Schools and Systems of Distinction for the year of their accreditation.

Required training for institutions with upcoming engagement reviews starting in school year 2022-23 and beyond:

Engagement Review Training. Register >

Serving educators at every level

Education agency leaders

High-level leaders and their teams work with Cognia to set priorities, identify resources, and track progress of improvement efforts for their institutions. Cognia partners with you to design programs and services that fit your specific needs.

System and school leaders

Work with Cognia to achieve the recognition you deserve through accreditation and certification. Cognia addresses the unique requirements for education institutions in the U.S. and around the world:

  • Global Ministries
  • Large Agencies
  • Systems and Districts
  • Individual Schools
  • Early Learning
  • Digital Learning
  • And More