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Tribal Accreditation:Accreditation Standards

Cosa Culture 2

The COSA accreditation process accommodates the unique missions and needs of various types of education providers, while at the same time adhering to rigorous standards traditionally associated with premier accreditation associations.

For initial accreditation, each school must meet all seven (7) standards. Schools also conduct a self-study and develop a school improvement plan. The final step is to host a visiting team to validate that the school meets the standards and has conducted an adequate self-study.

These policies, procedures, protocols, and standards have been modeled after those of the International Council of School Accreditation Commission (ICSAC) on International and Trans-Regional Accreditation (CITA).

COSA is a primary accreditor and its accreditation has the endorsement of nine (9) Tribal Education Departments which are members of COSA.

Legal Status and Financial Adequacy

The legal status of the school is clearly defined and the school is approved for its operations by the tribal governing body within whose jurisdiction it is located. The school is adequately financed. Levels of income and expenditure are in reasonable balance. Overall financial resources are sufficient to assure the continuity and stability of services. Debt service or lines of credit are managed in such ways as to assure school governance/policy remains under the control of school authority.

1.1     All documents that define and describe the legal status of the school are on-site and readily available. (i.e., articles of incorporation, charter, by-laws, proprietary registration, partnership agreement, contracts, etc.)

1.2     There is a charter, tribal resolution, contract, license, or permit issued by the tribal governing body that indicates the schools governing body has the authority to operate within that jurisdiction.

1.3     There is identified access to legal counsel qualified to advise the school in its legal status, rights, and responsibilities in the jurisdiction and in regard to other public or private contractual agreements.

1.4     Documents that define and describe pending or current legal proceedings are available for examination. (Public documents only; attorney/client correspondence is privileged.)

1.5     The school conducts no regular business activity that is outside the corporate or civil sanctions established by its legal status and the school has a governing or advisory body that provides advice and assistance to the school.

1.6     The Educational Leader (i.e. Superintendent, Principal, etc.) is given the authority to make administrative decisions without undue interference from parents, community, staff or the Board.

1.7     The accounts of the school are maintained in accordance with accepted accounting procedures and are audited annually. The report of the annual audit is on-site and available to evaluators. Any concerns regarding un-allowed costs have documented abatement plans to resolve the issue. Audits are submitted annually to the Tribal governing body.

1.8     The income from all regular sources appears sufficient to support all regular expenditures.

1.9     Financial institutions that have loaned money to the school or have credit extended to the school derive no control of school governance/policy from the loan or the credit agreement

1.10   Evaluators have access to a balance sheet that describes the overall financial operations and financial condition of the school.

Educational Services and Education Personnel

The educational mission of the school is clearly documented and supported by school, staff, and administration. The curriculum is well-defined and rigorous. Methods and materials are professionally sanctioned and instruction is in groups of a size that encourages and permits the effective treatment of individual differences. An effective program for students provides a balance of educational experiences which actively involves each child in learning activities, is based on knowledge of human growth and development, and relies on sound learning principles. The school presents convincing demonstration that each member of educational and administrative staff is fully qualified to perform the duties assigned. The school evaluates the performance of each member of its staff and provides appropriate interventions, consultation and guidance. School personnel will adhere to all background requirements.

2.1     There is a written statement of mission, philosophy, values, outcomes and goals which has been developed by the community and staff of the school; it is annually reviewed and is available to the public.

2.2     The curriculum is defined by scope and sequence or other similar progressive processes. There are content standards, performance standards, and benchmarks at specific exit levels. Positive methods of motivation are used. There is evidence of cultural integration in all content areas.

2.3     Materials and methods of instruction are consistent with the mission, philosophy, values and goals of the curriculum and of the school. Instructional methods and materials reflect the culture of the tribal community.

2.4     The school meets the requirements for a program of learning which leads to a diploma or other form of completion and preparation for the next level of learning/life.

2.5     There is a continuous professional development plan for staff including an implementation phase.

2.6     The interpersonal relationships between staff and students enhance learning.

2.7     All teaching employees have a credential or certification from a state, meet regional accrediting standards, meet national or federal standards or regulations, or, in specialty areas such as art or tribal languages, have a portfolio of educational, personal, or professional evidence that reveals they are fully qualified to perform the duties assigned to them.

2.8     The educational leadership in charge of the school evaluate the professional performance of each member of the staff and results of the evaluation are privately shared with persons evaluated, with appropriate counseling and plans of assistance, as needed.

2.9     The school conducts yearly staff evaluations and maintains confidentiality of individual staff evaluations.

2.10   Staff members are in sufficient number as to effectively perform all educational and administrative functions of the school. No staff member is regularly overloaded.

2.11   All school personnel will follow and adhere to federal and tribal background requirements upon employment to be renewed every five (5) years.


School Improvement and Development

The school staff conducts a collegial self-study followed by an external peer review and action plan. The school maintains a disciplined knowledge of its future with projections of income, expense, enrollment, special populations, and trends in which the school operates. The school maintains long-range planning (or strategic planning) documents which reveals how it will maintain continuous improvement. The plan is distributed to the community.

3.1     The school has conducted a self-study that successfully defines its philosophy, mission, values, student outcomes, and goals.

3.2     The self-study contains self-evaluations that identify strengths and areas for improvement. The self-study is (in general) confirmed by a team of evaluators using peer review procedures.

3.3     The school maintains projections that reveal trends and tendencies underway in its various sub-systems including income, expense, enrollment, and special populations.

3.4     The school has a plan for its future that indicates goals, needed resources based on data analysis, and identifies those responsible for their accomplishment.

3.5   The school shows evidence of regular monitoring of the School Improvement Plan.

3.6   The school will distribute school improvement and other plans to the community.

Cultural Relevancy

The learning climate reflects a positive cultural image. Specific tribal culture, history, and language are integrated into the curriculum. Community members and tribal elders contribute to classroom instruction. Tribal language and customs are valued. School staff are given training to increase their understanding of tribal culture and values. The school offers cultural sensitivity professional development to staff.

4.1     The physical appearance of the school reflects the tribal culture and a cultural climate permeates the school environment.

4.2    Instruction is made relevant to the students by integrating cultural aspects in all applicable content areas.

4.3    Staff receive training in how to integrate tribal culture into the curriculum.

4.4    Tribal language(s) is incorporated into the curriculum.

4.5    Community members and students are involved in the design of the cultural instruction.

4.6    Community members, including tribal elders, are involved in the classroom.

4.7    Tribal members make up an equitable portion of certified staff.

4.8    Instructional materials are reviewed for bias and historical accuracy.

Management and Supervision

There is a table of organization. Lines of authority, relationship, and accountability are defined. Job descriptions and work schedules are regularly reviewed. There is a plan for staff development. Staff appointment and termination practices reflect consistency and freedom of bias. Annual state-of-the-school reports are issued. An up-to-date policies and procedures manual is printed and reviewed annually.

5.1    The school has an organizational chart and is able to effectively describe one in its discussions with evaluators.

5.2    Members of the staff can describe their duties with full understanding; they know what is expected of them; and they know to whom they are accountable.

5.3    The leader of the school is able to identify goals for the school’s improvement/development and describe strategies for their attainment.

5.4    The activities of the school are structured, scheduled, and administered in ways that assure the stability, continuity, and reliability of events such as: Professional Development implementation, staff appointment, and policies and procedures.

5.5    Staff appointment and termination practices reflect consistency and freedom of bias.

5.6    Annual state-of-the-school reports are issued.

5.7    An up-to-date policies and procedures manual is printed and reviewed annually.

Student Attendance/Conduct/Records/ Counseling

The school accounts for the presence of its students and meets all local regulations for maintaining their health and safety. Unexplained absences are reported to parents/guardians and legal authority in a timely manner. A student code of conduct is in written form and consistently enforced. Procedures for the expulsion of any student for cause are known and consistently applied. Counseling is provided as needed. Exit counseling is conducted prior to final exit from school. Records of admission, progress, achievement, and recommendations for future study are safely and securely preserved. Occasional follow-up studies of former students are conducted.

6.1    There is a clearly designed format and procedures for recording the daily attendance of each student.

6.2    The school immediately notified parents (or other identified authority) of unexplained absences.

6.3      Guidelines for student rights, responsibilities, and student code of conduct are identified and known by all students, parents, and members of the staff.

6.4      Procedures for the expulsion of any student for cause are established, written and consistently applied.

6.5    The school environment and all operations are designed and developed with a conscious concern for the health and safety of all students and staff.

6.6      Developmental, social/emotional, academic, and personal counseling relevant to academic progress are provided as needed.

6.7    A structure is in place for the establishment and secure preservation of records of all students’ activities from their admission through exit.

6.8    Interventions are offered and exit counseling is conducted upon final exit from the school.

6.9    Follow-up studies of promoted or graduated students and/or their parents or the community are conducted.


Communications among staff and with students, parents, and schools that students regularly attend are clear and complete. All are informed of what they need to know in a timely manner. Relationships at all levels are constructive and mutually supporting. There is safe access and egress to and from all parts of the facility with adequate provisions for the movement of handicapped persons. Digital equipment and media required for the effective implementation of educational and administrative functions is adequate, up-to-date, and effectively used.

7.1     Members of the staff are provided with all the information they need concerning students, parents, school operations, and employment status.

7.2     Staff morale reflects positive staff attitudes toward the school, its students, the parents, the administration, and the school community.

7.3     There is evidence of communications with other appropriate professionals, schools, and agencies, such as public health and mental health agencies.

7.4     Provisions are made to assure records and other correspondence defining students’ accomplishments are accurate and consistent with professional standards.

7.5     Relationships with former students are positive and productive.

7.6     The school’s relationship with the other educational agencies are professional and productive.

7.7     Relationships with community members and other educational institutions are strong.

7.8     The school can provide evidence that all provisions and precautions needed to insure the health and safety of staff and students are in place. This should include Crisis and Emergency Response Plans.

7.9     Digital equipment and media used in instruction are up-to-date, functional, and appropriate for the purposes to which they are dedicated. Technology staff are knowledgeable of current and future trends.

7.10    Reporting to parents and outside agencies are timely and include at a minimum staff and student attendance, discipline, and progress toward goals. Frequent academic progress is reported to students and parents.