Educational accreditation is a type of quality assurance process under which services of educational institutions or programs are evaluated by an external body to determine if standards are met. If standards are met, accredited status is granted by the accreditation agency.
In most countries, educational accreditation is conducted by a government organization, such as a ministry of education. However, in the United States quality assurance processes exist that are independent of the government and performed by private non-profit organizations.¹ The US system of accreditation emerged in the 19th and 20th centuries after educational institutions perceived a need for better coordination between secondary and post-secondary educational institutions.¹
Accreditation of higher education varies by jurisdiction and may focus on the actual institution or both the institution and the specific educational program. The federal government began to play a limited role in higher education accreditation in 1952 with the reauthorization of the GI Bill for Korean War veterans.² The US Department of Education is required to publish a list of nationally recognized accrediting agencies for higher education.²
In the US, there is no federal government list of recognized accreditation agencies for primary and secondary schools like there is for higher education.³ Public schools must adhere to rules set by state governments.³ There is wide variation among individual states. There are also six regional accreditors in the United States that have historically accredited elementary, junior, middle, and high schools.³
1. Dr. Marjorie Peace Lenn. Global Trends in Quality Assurance in Higher Education. World Education New and Reviews, v. 5, no. 2, Spring 1992. pp. 1-21.