The Accrediting Commission for Schools, Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC ACS) evaluated the school to complete their six-year evaluation cycle from Sunday, March 3 to Wednesday, March 6. To properly get a sense of the school, the WASC visiting committee, consisting of teachers administrators and the WASC chair from different parts of California, visited the school. The committee assessed the school’s classroom and campus environments by interviewing the staff, students and parents and observing campus life.
“There’s a committee of six people…and they basically come to confirm and gather further evidence that what we wrote in our self study is valid and accurate,” Assistant Principal Galen Rosenberg said. “The process includes spending three days visiting classrooms and meeting with different groups of staff, parents and students…And based on that, they determine what our accreditation term will be.”
Over the course of its visit, the committee compiled a list of school-wide strengths and critical areas for focus. These strengths and areas for focus were revealed to the school’s staff in the WASC committee’s final report presentation in the Eagle Theater shortly after school on Wednesday, March 6.
The WASC committee ultimately described the school as a learning institution with exceptional strengths in academic achievement and campus environment. The committee identified the school’s diligent and devoted staff as crucial to the school’s commendable level of accomplishment.
The committee also established three critical areas for focus that it felt was crucial for the school to continue to develop and improve on. Areas of focus for the school include continuing the alignment of school curriculum, ensuring that all learners of English receive the necessary instruction to become proficient in English and the bettering the use of data to improve instruction.
On top of providing the school with recommendations, the WASC evaluation also validates the school by giving value to the diplomas that the school issues to graduating seniors every year. This is important as colleges take into consideration the reputation of the applicant’s school.
“We have to be accredited or [student] diplomas don’t have the certification that they need for you to go to college,” Rosenberg said. “It’s absolutely essential.”
WASC visits also give the school’s entire staff the opportunity to self-evaluate and improve the school in a variety of ways by assisting the school in isolating priority areas for improvement. From this process of self-evaluation, a thorough self-study report of the school is made.
“Many schools treat this accreditation process as a bureaucratic necessity that they do periodically to get accreditation,” Rosenberg said. “But for the last 12, maybe even 18 years, we’ve used WASC as an organizing purpose for school improvement. The way we see it, the action plan that’s a part of the accreditation self-study are things that are going to make this school better in six years.”
The school’s six-year action plan has five focuses, each geared toward improving a different aspect of the school. The focuses include improving class alignment and grading policies, building a sense of community among the school’s students, bettering student achievement, establishing a better sense of communal responsibility and accountability and upgrading the school’s technology. Teachers, administrators, staff, students and parents have all worked on the action plan, which the school submitted to the WASC committee.
“We’ve been meeting to prepare the reports and the action plan that will guide us for the next six years…those are parts of the plan that we will submit to them,” social studies teacher Derek Miyahara said.
The action plan was not the only document that the school had to prepare. The paperwork that the school submitted also consisted of summaries of what the school has achieved since WASC’s last visit, focus group reports and data collected from surveys completed by students and parents and self-studies that the school has done to reflect on its development and improvement as a learning institution.
In addition to the action plan, the committee considered its observations during its visit to assess the school.
“It’s a wonderful school,” WASC Chair Sue Brothers said. “You have a tremendous school culture, incredibly high student achievement, huge UC A-G college going rate. The resources here and the things that you guys do are incredible…The strengths of this school are just huge.”