Date of Award

Winter 2002

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Todd A DeMitchell


Since the publication of A Nation at Risk in 1986, educators, government officials and community members have grappled with the unwieldy task of defining effective measures of school improvement. Calls for accountability and improvement resound in the halls of legislatures, the media, and in communities nationwide. The accreditation of schools has served as a conduit for accountability, but has it served as a vehicle for improvement?

This study sought to determine how closely the process of elementary accreditation through the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) aligns with research-based models of effective school change and acts as a leverage point for school reform.

The study focused on determining the impact and value of elementary school accreditation procedures on school improvement initiatives in five elementary schools in the New England States, as reported by school leaders, teachers and support personnel whose schools have participated in the NEASC accreditation process.

Integrating quantitative and qualitative methodological approaches, the study employed a survey and interviews to gather responses to questions designed to explore the relationship between NEASC accreditation research-based models of effective school improvement. The impact of participation in NEASC accreditation on school change efforts, professional inquiry, curriculum, instruction and assessment, community support, and student achievement are reported and analyzed with differences noted by role and school.

Analysis of the survey data revealed that respondents valued participation in the elementary accreditation process and identified it as an effective means of school improvement. Complementarity of results was noted in the data analysis of the qualitative and quantitative data. Significant differences in responses by role were noted, with school leaders attributing more value to the process than teachers or support personnel. Significant differences were identified between schools and were described using a framework (Timar, 1989) adapted to analyze the mode of implementation utilized by each school to accomplish the accreditation tasks.

Recommendations for changes in the accreditation process and suggestions for future research are included in the study.