07 Nov How Atlas Supports Schools Preparing for Accreditation
The Meridian School is a member of NWAIS, an accrediting body that engages schools in an eight-year cycle of continuous improvement. Each cycle culminates in a re-accrediting process that entails a robust self-study process and school visit by the accrediting organization to ensure the school satisfied the prescribed standards of the accrediting body.
Accrediting bodies across the country have different approaches, however, the processes are generally similar. And, no matter the accrediting body, the process of accreditation or re-accreditation is a massive undertaking.
Initiating a Curriculum Mapping Process
Reflecting on feedback from the previous accreditation, The Meridian School recognized the need to initiate a curriculum mapping process in order to document all their curriculum. Meghan described Atlas as being ‘transformative’ for the school in housing all teachers’ work in one central location. For the first time, their curriculum was documented in an easily accessible place and on a platform that allowed it to be easily reviewed and updated on a regular basis. Meghan also added that, in this sense, Atlas not only supported their re-accreditation but was also ‘a catalyst in allowing [their] curriculum to move ahead in a lot of great ways over the last few years.’
Learning from the Process
The Meridian School decided to map all subjects at once. In retrospect, Meghan would recommend focusing on one content area at a time, providing necessary professional development to support teachers in the process.
Meghan also noted that the accrediting body appreciated seeing that some of the curriculum was in progress—reflecting their understanding that curriculum is never “done” and documenting it should be iterative and taken in steps. So schools going through this process shouldn’t worry about completing all their curriculum in advance.
Supporting Consistency and Alignment
Several Atlas features supported The Meridian School in documenting an integrated, consistent, and robust curriculum. One of the schools’s driving goals was to have a more coherent and consistent scope and sequence. In Atlas, the unit planner allowed curriculum maps across subjects and grade levels to be documented using the same template.
To support consistency in how each unit was documented, The Meridian School also used a style guide to support teachers as they developed curriculum in the unit planner. The style guide was linked at the top of every unit planner, making it easily accessible for teachers as they developed their curriculum. The guide was inspired by a style guide provided by Rubicon, which was modified to reflect the school planner.
What is a style guide? A style guide is a ‘cheat sheet’ schools create to clearly set out definitions and expectations for their unit planner. For more great information and examples, view our blog here.
As the curriculum took shape, the Standards Analysis Report allowed Meridian School to track and demonstrate that their curriculum was aligned with national and state standards and informed their curriculum development.
Publicizing the Curriculum for the Accrediting Team
Thanks in large part to a clear and consistent unit planner and style guide, the uniformity in the maps helped support the Meridian School in creating a public site.
A public site is an optional feature of Atlas that allows schools to publicize their curriculum according to their specifications. For example, the public site can be augmented to show only specific mapping categories, courses, or subjects. And, the public site can be password protected or made available only to specific groups.
The Meridian School used the public site to make their curriculum accessible to the accreditation team. They chose to focus on the essential questions, content and skills, and assessments, as well as the scope and sequence when determining which parts of the curriculum to make available.
Now, Meghan explained that the school plans to make their public site visible to parents as a link via their website to demonstrate the great curricular work their teachers are doing to support student achievement.
Commendations from the Accrediting Body
Having the curriculum available via Atlas was not only integral in helping The Meridian School gain re-accreditation, but it also informed much of the praise they received from the accrediting body.
Atlas was specifically supportive in helping Meridian demonstrate that it:
- Had a mission-aligned curriculum
- Supported cohesive and consistent curriculum within all program areas
- Reviewed and updated curriculum at least once per review cycle
Looking to the Future—Building on the Process’s Momentum
Meghan shared that they are already underway reviewing their curriculum in Atlas and plan to update different content areas each year. Not only that, as they continuously improve their curriculum, they also intend to make it visible to parents and prospective families and teachers via the public site. Documenting curriculum in Atlas helped jumpstart a curriculum initiative unlike anything in the school’s past. Moreover, what was initially a support for accreditation is now an integral piece of the school’s process.
To learn more about how Atlas can support your accreditation process, join us for our Leadership Institute ‘Supporting Accreditation with Atlas’! Can’t make it? No Problem! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.