Work on WASC begins

February 14, 2019 — by Jun Lee and Nitya Marimuthu

With the school’s accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) ending in March of next year, the process for re-accreditation has already begun.

The accreditation, which is included on students’ transcripts, essentially verifies that the school is providing an adequate education to students and provides a road map for the school’s improvement.

In order for the school to receive a full accreditation, students, teachers and community members must set educational and academic goals every few years and then implement systems that help to achieve them. If a school fully succeeds, the accreditation lasts for a six-year term.

“Essentially, the school takes stock of the profile of our entire student body and community,” said English teacher Amy Keys, who is coordinating the school’s WASC effort. “Who goes to our school? What are their needs? What do they want? What are they doing in the school and what are they doing after they leave the school?”

After taking this profile, teachers, students, parents, administrators and other staff members meet in teams and talk about how they can improve the school.

Juniors Risa Carter and Emma Hsu are leading the student side of these teams. Carter thinks they were chosen due to the diverse perspectives they provide, being part of school activities such as orchestra and the Media Arts Program.

Carter and Hsu are helping lead two groups, one focused on justice and the other on education. Carter said that she expects the groups to talk about their experiences and make improvements based on those.

“We are making a blueprint for the school to become a better place in the future,” Carter said.

There are two types of teams for participants: home teams and focus groups. The home teams are divided by department, with teachers from each subject meeting together. For example, the guidance department meets as a home team, and the English department as another. The home groups look at student data, and analyze learning based on those statistics.

Focus groups consist of a mix of many departments, as well as students and parents. There are five different focus groups, with each group examining topics from assessments to support for students' academic and personal growth.

During the spring semester, focus groups will meet five times. During the meetings, the groups will examine the goals from the previous accreditation, and evaluate whether or not they have been achieved. According to Keys, the focus groups have many questions they ask in order to improve their plan for years to come.

“How did we set out to accomplish our goals as a school community?” Keys said. “What is our focus and what did we do, and are we succeeding? Should we keep trying to pursue the same goals? Have the needs of the school changed? And what can we do as a school to further meet student needs?"

In the fall, after evaluating previously achieved progress, the school will move towards writing the school's progress report as well as conducting a "self-study.” In the spring of 2020 the school will host visitors from WASC coming in to evaluate.

The school has routinely gotten a full accreditation in the past. Because the school is so strong academically it focuses more on topics such as reducing student stress and creating stronger bonds among all students. However, in the past, changes have included building a new science wing and recently the addition of a student center.

Keys said that the process might be interesting to students because it helps them to understand why the school introduces programs such as CASSY, Speak Up for Change week and Breaking Down the Walls week.

“The accreditation is a process that’s built into a complicated system of responding to the needs of the people who are in our community and it's an exciting opportunity for teachers and other staff, students, and parents to come together and continue to make our school better every year,” Keys said.

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