The five traditional high schools in Elgin Area School District U-46 are all certified by the state board of education, meaning they meet minimum standards of instruction. But four out of the five are also accredited by a separate organization called AdvancED, and South Elgin High School is on its way to the same designation.
Superintendent José Torres explained to board members during their meeting Monday night that accreditation is not required, but it is an assessment by an outside body that gives the district high schools "a sort of blessing."
AdvancED is an international educational accrediting body that serves more than 30,000 public and private schools across the globe.
Elgin High School first received accreditation in 1904 and district officials have chosen to consistently renew the designation ever since. South Elgin High School opened in 2005 and went through its first accreditation inspection last month.
Melanie Meidel, assistant superintendent of human resources and former principal of South Elgin High School, participated in the accreditation visit in mid-February as well as the entire process, which took about a year and a half. She said the application itself forces reflection and creates the space for improvement at all levels of the school community.
"It just helps you to focus so you're not doing all these sidebar things that really don't impact learning," Meidel said. "It really focuses in on the instructional piece."
Terri Lozier, principal of Streamwood High School, said it also starts conversations about best practices and new initiatives to achieve them.
And Jerry Cook, principal of Elgin High School, added that the process provides validation of the good work each school is already doing.
The accreditation process starts with internal review as staff members rate their own programs and provide evidence to support their analysis. External reviews, like South Elgin High School had last month, round out the process before committees at the state and national levels decide on accreditation.
Laura Hill, director of assessment and accountability at U-46, said the high schools should receive word of their accreditations in July.
Other area schools accredited by AdvancED are Marengo High School, Central Senior High School in Burlington and Geneva High School.