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Celebrating More Than 40 Years

A Brief History of the Virginia Association of Independent Schools

The Virginia Association of Independent Schools (VAIS) was established at Charlottesville, VA on April 30, 1973, through the merger of the Virginia Association of Preparatory Schools and the Virginia Association of Independent Elementary Schools.  VAIS is a non-profit, voluntary membership association of schools that share compatible philosophies and goals.

VAIS is a service organization that promotes educational, ethical and professional excellence. Since its founding, the stated purposes of the Association have been to promote the well-being of and public regard for independent schools in the Commonwealth of Virginia; to safeguard the interests of these schools in matters of legislation and regulation; to act as an evaluating and accrediting organization for independent schools in Virginia; to foster mutually beneficial relations with the Virginia State Department of Education and other educational agencies; to assist member schools in maintaining standards of excellence; to encourage activities and to exchange information about new methodologies and practices; and to provide community service and leadership.

Prior to the founding of VAIS, a small number of independent schools’ headmasters, known as “The Baker’s Dozen” met informally to discuss commonly held educational issues, and the teachers of several independent schools planned “Virginia Independent Schools Subject Matter Conferences”.  The “Teachers’ Conference” in 1966, had over 200 individuals in attendance.  In addition, key administrators such as the development officers conducted their own annual meetings.  This group, known as VISDA, the Virginia Independent Schools Development Association, has remained an active network for more than forty years.

The accreditation of independent and other private schools was initially overseen by the Virginia State Department of Education, but by July 1, 1987, the State authorized oversight of the accreditation of nonpublic pre-school, elementary and secondary schools by the Virginia Council for Private Education (VCPE).  (See $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.

In 2007, VAIS voluntarily submitted to a rigorous and impartial review of its accreditation program by the NAIS Commission on Accreditation and demonstrated its adherence to the Criteria for Effective Independent School Accreditation Practices.  The National Association of Independent Schools, through its Commission on Accreditation, commends and confirms its confidence in the quality of VAIS’s accreditation program for its independent schools.

Membership in VAIS has grown slowly but steadily over the years. In 1973, there were forty-four founding member schools and eight provisional members.  By 1990, there were sixty-six members, and the membership in 2013 stands at 87 schools and growing. 


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