“Sustaining Excellence” at MFS

Larry Van MeterMost independent schools are accredited by an outside standards organization. At Moorestown Friends, we are accredited by the Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges (MSA). This agency, based in Philadelphia, accredits institutions large and small, at the college level from the University of Pennsylvania (25,000 enrollment) to Haverford College (1,300 enrollment). MFS has been accredited by MSA for many decades.

Every seven years, MSA requires its members to go through a reaccreditation process. We are privileged at Moorestown Friends to have been invited to be accredited under the Sustaining Excellence program, a new protocol reserved, as MSA describes it, for “leading schools.” For MSA, “Leading schools are those schools that are achieving high levels of student performance, have an excellent understanding of the necessary antecedents for those results, and are likely to continue achieving those high results over time.” There are only a few New Jersey independent schools under the Sustaining Excellence protocol, and they include Lawrenceville School and Christian Brothers Academy.

Being accredited under the Sustaining Excellence protocol frees schools from spending months doing endless checklists on inconsequential minutiae. Instead, MSA challenges Sustaining
Excellence schools to identify an issue of overarching strategic importance, outline programmatic initiatives to advance the chosen issue, and then hold a public symposium to share the results of their efforts.

At MFS, we have focused our strategic initiative on helping our students develop skills that build on Quaker values of compassion, inclusion, and consensus, to produce “successful, ethical, and service-oriented leaders.” This thrust is based on the Value Proposition work undertaken by the School Committee (board of trustees) several years ago. It is also the raison d’etre for the newly required Leadership course taken by all sophomores (and taught this year by Associate Head of School and Academic Dean Chris Kimberly and me).

We believe that MFS students are uniquely positioned to be effective leaders. We know from surveys of our recent grads that they feel better equipped than their college and work peers to communicate ideas and lead teams. We further believe that these skills grow directly out of the Quaker Dimension of MFS: the ability to listen empathetically, to commit to a point of view, to take into account other points of view, and, ultimately, to express their convictions persuasively and with passion. As Friends would say, to “let their lives speak.”

In October, we will host the heads and religion department chairs of Friends schools from across the nation for our Sustaining Excellence symposium. The event will be an opportunity to showcase what we have been doing at MFS as well as to draw out ideas from other Friends schools in this important area. We anticipate an interesting, provocative, and successful event.

In a demonstration of confidence, MSA has already reaccredited MFS — in advance of the symposium. But the underlying importance of this effort is not about reaccreditation or other external requirements; it’s about the benefits our students gain from learning to become compassionate, effective leaders. As we often say: students (and graduates) have “tough minds and tender hearts.” Our nation needs leaders who embrace these values.


Larry Van Meter ’68
Head of School