Accreditation &
Certification

Cognia accreditation and certification are like no others. Our research-based performance standards give your teams a shared framework to achieve measurable, meaningful improvement. No other accrediting agency gives you actionable data from a team of expert peer 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.

The premier diagnostic tool for school improvement

For more than 125 years, schools have been inviting Cognia and our legacy agencies 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 the 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.

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.

Standards for 2021–2022

Key to the accreditation and certification processes is an objective evaluation known as the Accreditation Engagement Review. The current standards, which apply to institutions engaging in reviews during 2021–2022, are organized for different institution types, as listed below.

New standards for 2022

In spring 2021, we completed a development cycle to examine and update the Cognia Performance Standards. The new Cognia Performance Standards apply to all K–12 and postsecondary institutions. The new standards will go into effect for Accreditation Engagement Reviews beginning in the 2022–2023 school year.

The current, separate standards for Early and Extended Learning remain in effect going forward.

A meaningful process

Essential to both the accreditation and certification processes is the Engagement Review—an on-site or virtual visit to your institution by a specially trained team of educators and administrators from institutions like yours. During your review, members of the team probe your data, gather objective input, engage your team, and observe how learners respond to their environment and instruction. All along the way, you get guidance and support from an experienced Cognia leader.

Your team begins to reflect and collaborate even before the formal review takes place. Phases of the process include:


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

▵Cognia accreditation represents the unified policies and procedures for accreditation and certification from its Accreditation Divisions: North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement (NCA CASI), Northwest Accreditation Commission (NWAC), and Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement (SACS CASI).

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 along with your Accreditation Engagement Review for accreditation or renewal. The STEM Certification Review team is made up of experienced educators and leaders, including specialists in the STEM disciplines.

The team looks 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

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 meet with your stakeholders and make observations 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.

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 STEM certification. Cognia addresses the unique requirements for education institutions in the U.S. and around the world:

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