Embargo Period


Degree Name

MA in International Education

First Advisor

Dr. Sora H. Friedman


The international K-12 school market is growing fast, and new international schools are opening every year. Hundreds of those international K-12 schools seek out accreditation to help validate their institution’s authenticity. Accreditation allows potential students and families to trust that the education provided is legitimate according to a set of principles and standards provided by the accreditation organization. Colleges and universities, particularly those in the United States, where thousands of international students strive to be accepted, typically require students to matriculate from an accredited school. With this market growth comes a need for accountability, and therein lies accreditation. The United States has four regional accreditation organizations who accredit both domestic and international schools, but this study focuses on just one organization, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). This qualitative study explores various rationales provided by participants using Grounded Theory as the method and institutional theory as the theoretical framework. This paper examines the institutional legitimacy aspect of institutional theory. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with four staff members at WASC, and eight experienced WASC leaders at various international K-12 schools in Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. The interviews sought out insights and rationales to understand why schools chose WASC, considering the time, expense, and cultural considerations involved. This study concludes that WASC accreditation is, in fact, worth the cost and effort required. However, like the WASC Focus on Learning self-study process itself, there are areas of commendation, and areas for growth. The results provide direction for the both the WASC organization as well as international K-12 schools considering pursuing accreditation.

Keywords: accreditation, WASC, international, international school, K-12, Grounded Theory, institutional theory, institutional legitimacy, evaluation, global citizenship


Bilingual, Multilingual, and Multicultural Education | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Educational Sociology | Elementary and Middle and Secondary Education Administration | Other International and Area Studies