06 Jun How to Connect School Accreditation with Improvement Planning
Materials prepared by Anahi Paredes, Curriculum Director at the American School of Tegucigalpa | Blog by Debra Andersen, Rubicon International
Preparing for school accreditation can be a daunting task, all the way from the actions, recommendations, and school improvement plan to the new initiatives. Sometimes it can feel like all the steps are not working towards the end goal of improving the school.
Anahi Paredes, the Curriculum Director at the American School of Tegucigalpa, shared with us that preparing for a school accreditation review is one and the same as the school improvement plan. To structure a process that supported both, Anahi and her team used Atlas to develop and implement their school improvement plan and the strategic plan that guided them through their successful school accreditation process with AdvancEd. Below are the steps the American School of Tegucigalpa followed:
First, create a Core Leadership Team.
It’s not just one person leading the process, but a collaboration of teacher leaders, department heads, support services, media specialists, literacy coaches, and more. Anahi’s team consists of 15 individuals who met monthly. One of the best things about leading change with a team? They can offer authentic feedback. Providing teachers with a voice early on is key to measuring the process.
With the Core Leadership Team in place…
Second, connect school improvement with accreditation.
After their last visit, the accrediting body, proposed the following: “The school must develop and implement a comprehensive curriculum that is aligned to the school’s vision and clearly articulates what students need to know and be able to do for all subject areas and grades.” To meet these recommendations, Anahi and the CLT created a four-year strategic plan, which included:
- Year 1: Aligning to Common Core Math Standards (UbD framework)
- Year 2: Aligning to Common Core ELA Standards (UbD framework)
- Year 3: Aligning to NGSS and designing authentic performance tasks
- Year 4: Identifying consensus and master curriculum maps
This was then connected with the existing school improvement plan and new initiatives. The new standards and adoption of the Understanding by Design framework reflected their school values, prepared students for college and are internationally recognized. These were all measured against their school mission to maintain cohesion.
After 3 years of aligning to new standards with the Ubd framework, by Year 4, it was time to identify the Collaborative — or Master — maps. Teachers began reviewing these units with the support of rubrics, including a Quality Mapping Rubric and a UbD Peer Review Rubric.
Can the plan change?
Yes, sometimes this is needed so Anahi recommends revisiting the plan often. At the end of each year the CLT reviewed their progress and modified the plan as needed. For example, Science and Social Studies were originally the focus for Year 3. However, at the end of Year 2, the team realized aligning to NGSS and designing Authentic Performance Tasks would require all of Year 3. Even though the timeline changed, the end goal remained the same.
Third, support teachers.
It is vital to support teachers throughout the course of the Action Plan. A school-wide philosophical shift was possible because teachers were given sufficient time for this new style of collaborative work. The Board of Directors approved 2 early release days a month, with focused time for curriculum development and revision. Furthermore, Anahi and the CLT carefully mapped the Professional Development needed for each item in the Action Plan.
- Years 1 & 2: Professional Development focused on unpacking standards and the three stages of the Ubd approach in order to successfully align to Common Core.
- Year 3: Vertical Teams developed the Authentic Tasks together. Teachers did not have to create the Authentic Tasks alone as the Teams provided support and feedback. The GRASPS model was implemented which provided an instrument to measure progress with rubrics and exemplars easily accessible for teachers. Additionally, Jay McTighe joined the teachers on a live webinar and provided feedback during the year.
- Year 4: Teachers were provided with Exemplar units and the Peer Rubric to focus conversations on reviewing the Collaborative maps.
Finally, showcase progress with Atlas reports!
Anahi and the CLT looked to Atlas as a clear and visual way to display the progress, such as exemplary units, alignment of assessments to the learning goals, before and after units, differentiated instruction, project-based learning, and technology integration. Here are some of the Dynamic Reports that Anahi and the Core Leadership Team added to their dashboard:
Meeting accreditation recommendations and school improvement should be connected. Anahi showed us that with a cohesive strategic plan and strong team you can successfully prepare for your next accreditation visit and meet your school improvement plans.