An Opportunity to
Set the Tone
Steve Baughman | Principal, Indiana Academy
I believe that accreditation and the accreditation process are some of the most misunderstood and overlooked opportunities for a school administrator to truly set a vision for a school and mobilize support for realizing that vision. While I am sure there are more seasoned accreditation veterans out there, I have served on several visitation teams and been through the accreditation process at my school as both a teacher and principal. The common theme I have noticed is that more often than not, the principal (and occasionally a subcommittee) have developed the bulk of the self-study document and has done little to solicit input from the staff, faculty, and various stakeholders in the process. Doing so misses a golden opportunity for a school principal to mobilize support for school growth.
The principal, in concert with the school board chairperson, should be the primary architects in crafting a school's vision. However, in order to accomplish that vision, stakeholder buy-in is critical. This buy-in is where the accreditation process can be so beneficial. By using previous visiting committee reports and the development of the self-study, the accreditation process can be one of the best opportunities to develop plans for long-term growth while bringing along the key stakeholders.
While accreditation carries its own merits as far as discerning parents or local school laws may be concerned, it is the process of preparing for an accreditation visit, and the subsequent implementation of those plans, that can empower a principal to realize the actual change in a program. Setting aside adequate time for collaboratively developing an authentic self-study document and appreciating the value of going through a process together can provide valuable opportunities for a school administrator to reflect on both the strengths and, more importantly, the areas for growth in a school. Taking the time to develop purposeful action plans to address the perceived areas of need can serve as a roadmap for continued school growth that can set the tone for years to come. Rushing through this process, or attempting to do it without any additional input, might be sufficient for getting a nicely framed accreditation document to hang in the hallway. However, when it comes to meaningful school growth, it is an opportunity squandered.
Administrators can view the accreditation process as a task or chore. However, if recast in a positive light, and if given the appropriate time and emphasis, it can be one of the most opportune times for a school administrator to effect change in a school.
A Pathway to Accountability
Ruth Horton | Associate Director of Education, Lake Union Conference
For an education institution, the question of “how am I doing?” is best addressed through a process of independent self-study, peer review, and ongoing reporting on the school’s progress toward continuous school improvement, all necessary elements in the accreditation process. This appraisal measure allows for aligning students’ learning goals with the school’s philosophy, mission, and values.
The outcome of the accreditation process reveals the degree to which a school maintains desired educational standards combined with a professional level of education administered by educators. A school receives an accreditation status as official recognition of its credibility, and its clientele [parents and students] respond in large part to their acceptance of such trustworthiness when they choose to enroll their children at an accredited educational institution. The heightened attention to accountability engendered through the accreditation proceedings, directs attention towards continuous school improvement planning and progress implementation, thus drawing all stakeholders into this accountability process.
Accreditation NAD Principals’ Handbook Excerpt
The principal is responsible for leading and managing the accreditation process. The accreditation process is vital for holding the school accountable to accepted standards of quality and facilitating school improvement. Accreditation protocols provide the framework for a continuous process of self-evaluation, accountability, and improvement. This must not be seen as a one-time event squeezed into a busy school calendar once every few years. Rather, this process provides the opportunity for engaging stakeholders in self-evaluation, and identifying areas of strength and areas for improvement in the school. Students, teachers, parents, board members, and the administration should have opportunity to review data that measure school programs and work on action plans that will lead to school improvement.
All Adventist schools are accredited by the Adventist Accrediting Association, Inc. Most secondary schools are also accredited by a regional accrediting body. Material and resources about the evaluative process are available from the NAD Office of Education website. The local conference office of education (LCOE) and the union conference office of education (UCOE) will provide direction about the accreditation process and how to prepare the necessary reports.
The principal must:
School Improvement Steps:
1. Work by yourself:
2. Don’t clutter your life with notes, minutes, and rough drafts:
3. Base it on jobs that need to be done or are already scheduled:
4. Start writing. The important thing is to produce a good-looking document:
5. Do NOT address student learning:
6. Have lots of them:
7. Be vague and general:
8. Keep them secret:
9. Ignore strong portions of your program:
10. Keep the timeline short—one year maximum:
11. Be optimistic and idealistic:
12. “Pour them in concrete”:
13. Whatever you do, forget it!
How to Write a Bad Action Plan
… Or, Instead of Doing This, Do That
Doug Herrmann | Chief Administrative Officer, Loma Linda Academy