A Case Study of the Experience of International Schools with the ACE Accreditation Protocol Through the New England Association of Schools and Colleges

  • Kim Raccio

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


In 2016, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on International Education (NEASC/CIE), introduced a major modification to its long-established school accreditation process. This new protocol, called ACE (Architecture, Culture, Ecology), aimed “to transform rather than ‘improve’ schools and reshapes accreditation into an instrument to enable systemic change” (NEASC/CIE 2016).

Through the introduction of ACE, NEASC/CIS hoped to initiate a paradigm shift in both the expectations of and outcomes for school accreditation. This study explored NEASC/CIE’s claims for ACE by focusing on the experience of schools involved in ACE accreditation and specifically inquiring how the ACE protocol impacted learning practices within participating schools and to what degree school leadership perceived ACE as catalyzing transformational educational change within participant schools.

Seven schools participated in a mixed-methods case study involving the analysis of learning principle reports produced by the schools as part of the ACE protocol, along with direct interviews with school administrators. Analysis of report and interview data indicated that, while participating schools utilized language that aligned with NEASC/CIE’s conceptualization of transformative learning impacts less frequently than more traditional language, school administrators reported multiple ways in which the ACE protocol positively impacted the overall school community.

Based on the results of this study, it was concluded that schools valued accreditation by NEASC/CIE, the ACE protocol facilitated whole-school collaboration, and dialogue generated during the ACE self-study was frequently focused on the impact of learning on students. That said, this study also concluded that greater supports may be necessary to help schools navigate the ACE protocol and truly implement transformational learning shifts within their communities. Given that the ACE protocol was in its infancy at the time of this study, numerous opportunities for further study exist that may include, but should not be limited to, the exploration of the lived experience of the various stakeholders participating in the ACE protocol, comparative studies between ACE and other accreditation models, or longitudinal studies of exploring the impact of ACE within learning communities over time.
Date of Award19 Feb 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorMichael Fertig (Supervisor) & Hugh Lauder (Supervisor)


  • accreditation
  • International Education

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