There is a fast-developing problem for independent schools. It is more systemic than alleged racism and more disruptive than pandemic-induced protocols. Independent schools are becoming ungovernable.
A 1970’s Management Ideology
Organizations such as the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) and its accreditation partners have perpetuated a narrative that governance is all about “mission” without any specific accountability to students and their families. According to NAIS Principle 1 of Good Practice, “The head works in partnership with the board of trustees to establish and refine the school’s mission; articulates the mission to all constituencies — students, faculty and staff, parents, alumni/ae, and the community; and supports the mission in working with all constituencies.”
Then the accreditation connection is, for example, “… self-study, a thorough self-examination seen through the lens of the school’s mission…” (per NYSAIS policy). Even in a space where rigorous outcomes could be used, the standards used to assess and accredit schools adhere to the vague promise of mission, and include a body of standards that covers the spectrum of school services from admissions to finance to advancement. For student learning and programs, “the standards require schools to conduct a thoughtful…