Founding Story

The Virginia Association of Independent Schools (VAIS) was established in Charlottesville on April 30, 1973. Forty-four member schools and eight provisional members assembled through the merger of the Virginia Association of Preparatory Schools and the Virginia Association of Independent Elementary Schools. Prior to the founding of VAIS, a small number of independent school heads of school, known as The Baker’s Dozen, met informally to discuss current educational issues, while the teachers of several independent schools planned Virginia Independent Schools Subject Matter Conferences. In addition, key administrators of independent schools, including development officers, conducted their own annual meetings. With the genesis of VAIS, these various groups were finally connected through their common dedication to best practices in private education.

Accreditation Oversight

The Virginia State Department of Education initially oversaw the accreditation of independent and other private schools. By July 1, 1987, the State authorized the oversight of the accreditation of nonpublic pre-school, elementary, and secondary schools by the Virginia Council for Private Education (VCPE). (22.1-19 of the Code of Virginia)The Virginia Association of Independent Schools is a fully Approved Accrediting Member of VCPE and, therefore, recognized by the State of Virginia to accredit Virginia’s independent schools.

The Virginia Association of Independent Schools also is recognized by the International Council Advancing Independent School Accreditation (ICAISA). VAIS has voluntarily and regularly submitted to a rigorous and impartial review of its accreditation program and demonstrated its adherence to the Council’s Criteria for Effective Independent School Accreditation Practices. VAIS is commended by ICAISA for the quality of the Association’s accreditation program for its Member Schools.

ICAISA was originally convened as the NAIS Commission on Accreditation in 2002. VAIS played a major role in establishing the NAIS Commission on Accreditation, and helped ensure that the Commission improved the independent school accreditation process, established widespread recognition of their member schools’ accreditation, and developed the Criteria for Effective Independent School Accreditation Practices. The Commission was sunset by the NAIS Board in June 2018, in order to pave the way for ICAISA to independently and effectively fulfill its mission as the international leader in independent school accreditation. By working directly with accrediting associations, including VAIS, ICAISA advances excellence and upholds standards in order to ensure quality and accountability in independent schools across the globe.

Membership in and influence of VAIS has grown steadily over the years. Through the commitment and engagement of its member schools, the Association continues to connect, collaborate, and lead.