NEW BEDFORD — New Bedford High School continued to make strides in its turnaround plan, taking a huge step Thursday as the school announced it has earned its reaccreditation from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).

"NEASC accreditation is an important, third-party validation of New Bedford High School's rapid progress," said Mayor Jon Mitchell. "I commend the school's staff and students, as well as the administration, for all of their hard work throughout the process."

New Bedford High Headmaster Bernadette Coelho told WBSM News the accreditation is a 10-year process, with the NEASC visiting the school once every decade. In the interim, the school reports to the NEASC in two years with their own self-study, and then in five years with a progress report.

"It was actually a very long process," Coelho said. "We were granted a delay of two years because we had entered a turnaround plan. What happened was we engaged in a very thorough, rigorous self-study process that lasted about 15 months, that involved all of the staff, that was led by the teachers and the staff."

The school was then visited by a 16-member team from the NEASC this past April.

"They spent an awful lot of time at the high school, engaging with students, going into classrooms and looking at the instruction, and then they made their final determination, and took their vote for continued accrediation this week," Coelho said.

NEASC is an independent, voluntary, nonprofit membership organization which connects and serves over 2,000 public and independent schools, technical and career institutions, colleges, and universities in New England plus International Schools in more than 65 nations worldwide. A globally recognized standard of excellence, NEASC Accreditation attests to a school's high quality and integrity.

"Awarded by the foremost independent review body in K-12 education, this important credential should reinforce the public's confidence in their high school as well as affirm New Bedford High School as the school of choice," Superintendent Dr. Pia Durkin said.

Coelho said receiving accrediation from the NEASC is very important for the school, the students and the community as a whole.

"It's an expression of confidence in our school," she said. "It means we are meeting a very high set of rigorous standards. It's a statement not only to colleges and universities, but it assures the public that a third party has reviewed all aspects of the school and expressed its confidence."

"I think the NEASC standards really mirrored our turnaround, and they recognized we are meeting expectations in most of those standards," she said, noting that the organization was especially impressed with how much teachers were collaborating on a regular basis, coming together three times a week to go over student work and student data to see where students were ultimately meeting success.

While New Bedford High remains a Level 4 school, Coelho said the committment to the turnaround plan is unwavering.

"(Accreditation) is one step. We continue to work hard each and every day, and we believe that the level of instruction here is second to none," she said. "As we continue to make progress, our accountability data with the state is reflecting that progress."

"We recognize that we have made a lot of progress, but there's more work to do. We're committed to becoming and maintaining and remaining a school of excellence," Coelho said.