An E-newsletter on EXCELLENCE in Leadership

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.


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:

  • Be familiar with the most recent visiting committee report, noting especially the areas for improvement and the approved Action Plans.
  • Prepare the annual Progress Report, which is a response to the areas for improvement, and report on progress in completing the Action Plans.
  • Organize and supervise the self-study process. (See the instructions for completing the self-study report in the NAD Evaluative Criteria.)

School Improvement Steps:

  • Develop a school profile
  • Define beliefs and mission
  • Define desired results and mission
  • Analyze instructional and organizational effectiveness
  • Develop action plans
  • Implement the plan and document results

March 2020 | Volume 8, No.7

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.


1. Work by yourself:


  • An action plan must grow out of a study that includes all stakeholders.
  • Must be part of a school-wide assessment of the current program or profile.

2. Don’t clutter your life with notes, minutes, and rough drafts:


  • Keep all notes.
  • Take minutes at planning sessions.
  • Keep all drafts until the process is complete.

3. Base it on jobs that need to be done or are already scheduled:


  • It must not be a list of “Must-do” items.
  • It is not to be a list of capital or maintenance items to be completed. For example, “Paint the Administration Building” is not an action plan.
  • You are looking for broader areas that need improvement and will improve student learning.
  • They are to be in responses to areas needing growth revealed in your self-study.

4. Start writing. The important thing is to produce a good-looking document:


  • Know what you want to accomplish.
  • Ask, “What problem are we wanting to solve?”

5. Do NOT address student learning:


  • The action plan must address the issue of student learning.
  • It needs to address the ESLRs or SLOs.
  • It probably does not address them all. That is okay.
  • A visiting team should be able to see a parallel finding in the self-study that corresponds to the plan.

6. Have lots of them:


  • Make sure each action plan is worthy of the school’s focus and that it is achievable.
  • The idea is to go towards one overarching Action Plan with various aspects.

7. Be vague and general:


  • Be specific.
  • Think through the steps necessary to accomplish the growth goal.
  • Break the plan down into manageable and obtainable steps.
  • Be measurable, coherent, concrete, and comprehensible to teachers and administrators.

8. Keep them secret:


  • Be sure your visiting team doesn’t have the pleasure of introducing your faculty, staff, board, or any stakeholders to the Action Plans in your document.

9. Ignore strong portions of your program:


  • It is okay to include things you are doing well and want to make sure they stay strong.
  • You do not want strong areas to become future areas of growth due to lack of attention.

10. Keep the timeline short—one year maximum:


  • These should be plans that will be deep and significant enough to provide focus for several years.
  • Think Ongoing School Improvement.

11. Be optimistic and idealistic:


  • Set measurable goals.
  • Be realistic about timelines.

12. “Pour them in concrete”:


  • Constantly reevaluate them. If circumstances change, modify them and document.

13. Whatever you do, forget it!


  • The biggest mistake is that you never follow up on the action plan.
  • Have a plan to review it on a regular basis.
  • Even if you succeed in writing a bad one, if it has steps, do them!
  • Better yet, WRITE A NEW ONE!


How to Write a Bad Action Plan

… Or, Instead of Doing This, Do That

Doug Herrmann | Chief Administrative Officer, Loma Linda Academy



Issue coordinator

Steve Baughman

Principal, Indiana Academy

Newsletter Editor

Berit von Pohle, Editor

Director of Education,

Pacific Union Conference

Ed Boyatt, Editorial Advisor