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Vail Academy holds itself accountable

Matt Terrell
mterrell@vaildaily.com
Eagle-Vail, CO Colorado
Kristin Anderson/Vail DailyThe Vail Academy eighth-grader Noel Smith smiles while talking with her friend Paris Baker near their lockers Wednesday during a snack break at school in Eagle-Vail, Colorado.The students are required to wear uniforms at school.
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EAGLE-VAIL, Colorado ” Accreditation means one big thing to Vail Academy principal Robert Windel ” accountability.

While public schools are held accountable by state laws, No Child Left Behind and mandated standardized testing, all with consequences for poor performance, private schools have to find different ways of proving to families that they’re providing a quality education. Standards are always self imposed.

The Vail Academy has recently been accredited by the Association of Christian Schools International and the North Central Association, which school leaders say is a huge step in increasing the school’s transparency and standards.



Accreditation basically means having every part of your school picked apart and scrutinized by a third party. Student performance, hiring practices, teacher credentials, finance management and board policies are put under the microscope, and recommendations are made for improvements. The school is monitored and must maintain standards to keep its accreditation.

“We have really stepped up and bared our souls to getting accredited and being held accountable,” Windel said. “It provides assurance to parents that we have high standards.”



Camille Cooper, a language arts teacher, said as a parent, she wouldn’t want her kids going to a school where she didn’t know for sure how well it’s performing and how it’s being held accountable.

“There comes a point where you have to show what your standards are and how you’re reaching them,” Cooper said.

The accreditation process showed how students at the Vail Academy scored higher than national public school averages on the Stanford Achievement Test. Students in grades one through eight took the exam, which like the Colorado Student Assessment Program used by public schools, tests students in reading, writing, science and math.



It is a standardized test often used by private and parochial schools to monitor student achievement and is also widely used in public schools.

The students at the Vail Academy scored better than public school students who took the test in every grade. Compared with other Christian schools who took the Stanford test, Vail Academy students scored better in some grades, about the same in some, and fell a little behind in other grades.

The school was also commended for the way it nurtures children, how it manages finances and its camaraderie among staff members, Windel said.

The school also found areas needing improvement ” the accreditation team said the school needs to more clearly integrate the Bible into curriculum and find ways of incorporating computers and technology into classes.

The school’s accreditation has been long in the making.

“The academy had to some degree attempted to become accredited in the past, but simply hadn’t really measured up to meet the criteria,” Windel said.

So, the school has worked very hard to get to that level, Windel said, and in the process, has truly defined what the Vail Academy is all about.

Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 970-748-2955 or mterrell@vaildaily.com.


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