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California Outdoor Schools Association

Information about the California Outdoor Schools Association, a statewide network of outdoor schools and faculty that are managed by local educational agencies (LEAs).


The California Outdoor Schools Association (COSA), established in 1978, is a statewide group of outdoor school principals, directors, and county office personnel who have the unique experience and expertise to accurately assess the quality of an outdoor program and its facilities. Committed to finding ways to make the outdoor school experience available to all students, COSA utilizes Residential Outdoor Science School (ROSS) certifications to ensure a high quality academic, safe, and appropriate learning environment for fourth through seventh grade students served in California’s Outdoor Schools. It is dedicated to ensuring that all students in California have the opportunity to participate in an outdoor school experience as delineated in California Education Code Sections 8760–8774.

COSA Residential Outdoor Science School Certification

COSA Programs go through a Residential Outdoor Science School (ROSS) certification process every five years that is similar to the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) or Program Quality Review (PQR) and it is recognized by the California Department of Education (CDE) as an evaluation tool. The certification process consists of a pre-assessment by the site administrators and teaching staff, the two day and one night site visit made by a three or four person member COSA team, and the written report. Site certifications ensure that outdoor schools are meeting the criteria in the ROSS guide through direct observation by a non-biased group of outside administrators.

Components of the ROSS Certification Process

Modeled after the processes of WASC and PQR, the ROSS certification process consists of self-studies by site administration as well as a visitation by a group of outside administrators. The duration of the visit is two days and one night. Since outdoor schools have programs and activities that continue into the evening hours, it is necessary for overnight trips. The certification process is extensive, focusing on all programming aspects including, but not limited to, human resources, curriculum alignment with state content standards, food service, facilities management, health and safety, assessment, and transportation. The certifications are scheduled by the program to be certified during the school year between September and June. Funding from the CDE helps support an average of three to eight certifications annually.

Additional Information

More information about the California Outdoor School Association is available on the COSA's Web page External link opens in new window or tab..

Questions: Shannon Gordon | | 916-319-0190 
Last Reviewed: Tuesday, February 6, 2018
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