As an improvement organization, Cognia believes that every institution, even great ones, can be better tomorrow than today. We hold ourselves to the same ideal. Like the members we serve, Cognia continually works to innovate and improve. Our commitment to school quality and continuous improvement compels us to examine and update our accreditation standards and protocol to acknowledge changes and set expectations for quality education institutions in a new era.

Cognia’s Performance Standards and Protocol underpin all our solutions in service to schools and learners—professional learning, accreditation and certification, assessment, turnaround, and school improvement. The accreditation standards outline expectations for Cognia accredited institutions based on what the latest education research indicates makes for quality schools. The protocol outlines the requirements of the accrediting process.

New Cognia Performance Standards and Protocol

New Cognia Performance Standards and Protocol go into effect July 1, 2022, for member institutions undergoing an Accreditation Engagement Review and institutions pursuing accreditation for the first time. These new standards will help schools address today’s education challenges and set a vision for the future. In our last edition we wrote about The Meaning of Standards but here is what is most important to know.

The new protocol includes Self-Assessment, Engagement Review, and Progress Reporting. If you are familiar with the previous Cognia standards for different institution types, you will notice a significant change. One set of standards applies to all K–12 and postsecondary institution types, including systems of institutions. Not to worry we have ways of capturing relevant details that make your institution unique, and still provide useful information that leverages the power of community to share what we know works for high-quality schooling and is relatable among institutions with similar profiles, challenges, and experiences.

Members institutions now have new improvement tools and more opportunities for support and collaboration to help your institution’s team achieve a shared vision and understanding and make progress on improvement objectives.

Starting this fall, in response to evolving institution needs Cognia will:

  • Move to a six-year accreditation cycle* for most institutions so you have more time to implement initiatives, evaluate them, and prepare for the next cycle
  • Offer orientation and training for your team to prepare for success
  • Guide and support you with Cognia experts throughout your accreditation and improvement activities
  • Add Institution Self-Assessment to identify institution strengths and needs and ensure personnel understand the new standards and protocol
  • Add Progress Reporting and collaborate to help institutions sustain momentum


Throughout the engagement review process, Cognia provides guidance, tools, and resources as we shift from a review event to a relationship that fosters ongoing progress with momentum. With Cognia Standards as your guide to high-quality schooling you choose how to address your institution’s specific needs and leverage our knowledge to help you succeed.

Based on current research in education, input from practitioners, and multiple expert reviews, Cognia’s cyclical development process assures that the standards at the foundation of our improvement and accreditation strategies continue to be viable, feasible, and relevant. Learn more about the new Cognia Accreditation Performance Standards or reach out to your local Cognia contact for assistance.


*Some institution accreditation cycles will differ based on the needs or requirements of the institution, or the state/country in which it operates including Early Learning, Department of Defense Education Activity, and international schools.

Holly King, Ph.D.
Holly King, Ph.D.,  is senior vice president of Evaluation Services for Cognia, overseeing all aspects of accreditation and certification services offered to PK-12 schools around the world. Over her career, Dr. King has directed education programs in private, non-profit, and school district settings.  She has held adjunct faculty positions in Early Childhood Education for eight years at three colleges, teaching adult learners in online and face-to-face settings, and is an adjunct faculty member for the Master’s in Organizational Leadership program at the University of Denver. She also serves as Affiliate Research Faculty for Antioch University's Ph.D. in Leadership and Change in quantitative methods. To her leadership roles, Dr. King brings expertise in best practices in early learning and K-6 education; strategic planning; leadership development; quality assurance; data analysis; health, mental health, and disabilities services; family support; and professional development and coaching. Dr. King holds a Ph.D. in Leadership and Change from Antioch University, as well as master degrees in Early Childhood Education and Leadership and Change.