You may bave heard the term “WASC Accreditation” many times this school year, and in this articule I would like to explain what it is all about and why becoming accredited is such a big deal for the school community.
On the 5th of February 2018, International Pioneers School received the official confirmation letter from the Accrediting Commission for Schools, Western Association of Schools and Colleges (ACS WASC) granting accreditation status with a mid-cycle visit through June 2023. This means that in 2021 a small visiting committee will check how the school has addressed the critical areas for follow-up, and by 2023 we need to produce another self-study report to demonstrate that we are ready for the next cycle of accreditation.
But what does it mean to be accredited, and why is this so important to IPS?
Being accredited by an international organisation means that our school meets the same international standards as other WASC-accredited schools (e.g. ASB, ISB, RIS, Ekamai International School, Berkeley, or Anglo Singapore International School). In particular, the WASC accreditation status indicates that we are engaging in a cycle of ongoing school improvement, with a validation of our programme and improvement process every five years. Accreditation is a voluntary dual- purpose process that schools (1) must be worthy of the trust placed in them to provide high-quality learning and (2) clearly demonstrate continual self- improvement.
An accredited school is focused on a mission and goals for students; it is student-oriented and examines its students’ performance continuously; it accepts objective evaluation from a team of outside peer professionals trained by ACS WASC; it maintains a qualified faculty within an effectively organized school; it collaboratively assesses the quality of its educational programs on a regular basis; and it plans for the future.
What is WASC and why did we choose them?
The Accrediting Commission for Schools, Western Association of Schools and Colleges (ACS WASC is a world-renowned accrediting association and one of the six regional accrediting agencies in the United States. It provides assistance to schools worldwide, primarily in California, Hawaii, Guam, Asia, the Pacific Region, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe.
The Accrediting Commission for Schools, WASC, extends its services to over 5,000 public, independent, church-related, and proprietary pre-K–12 and adult schools, works with 18 associations in joint accreditation processes, and collaborates with other organizations such as the California Department of Education (CDE).
The philosophy of the Accrediting Commission for Schools centers upon three beliefs: (1) a school’s goal is successful student learning; (2) each school has a clear purpose and schoolwide student goals; and (3) a school engages in external and internal evaluations as part of continued school improvement to support student learning. Accreditation is integral to a school’s perpetual cycle of assessment, planning, implementation, monitoring, and reassessment based upon student achievement. It fosters excellence in elementary, secondary, adult, and postsecondary education by encouraging school improvement through a process of continuing evaluation and to recognize, by accreditation, schools that meet an acceptable level of quality in accordance with established criteria. In addition to its official title, WASC also means We Are Student-Centered.
Who benefits from accreditation?
ACS WASC accreditation is a school improvement process and therefore is a process that serves as the foundation for quality education. An accredited school is a statement to the broader community and the stakeholders that it is trustworthy institution for student learning and committed to ongoing improvement.
The public is assured that accredited institutions are evaluated extensively and conform to expectations of performance and quality. Because accreditation requires continual self- evaluation and monitoring of its programs and operations in relation to the impact on student learning and periodic external review, the public can be assured that the educational quality of programs and services offered by the institution are current, reflect high standards of quality, and are offered with integrity.
Students can be assured that the institutions in which they seek to enroll have been reviewed and the educational programs that are offered have been evaluated for quality.
IPS benefits from the stimulus for self- study and self-improvement provided by the accreditation process.
Was was the accreditation process?
In 2015, after the initial visit by WASC Vice President Dr Marilyn George, IPS was granted candidacy status and given three years to complete a full self- study. From 2015 to 2017, we evaluated the school programme against the WASC criteria and implemented some major changes that would help us meet international standards, such as the construction of the new building with improved facilities, the bring-your-own-device policy and Google accounts for everyone, and an improved curriculum with AS and A Level examinations. Parents and students were frequently consulted using online questionnaires and feedback forms. The self-study report (400 pages in total) was sent to WASC in September 2017, and the visiting committee examined the school between the 15th and 19th of October 2017.
The Visiting Committee concurred with the school’s identified areas that are outlined in the schoolwide action plan:
1. IPS should implement a plan to improve the reading skills of all students.
2. IPS should provide opportunities to stretch students by consistently incorporating higher order thinking skills.
3. IPS needs a transparent and well- communicated process for long- and short-range decision-making which involves the board, parents, and staff.
4. IPS should include a variety of cross-curricular opportunities to explicitly include all Schoolwide Learner Outcomes in all subjects and to provide more relevant content.
5. In addition, the Visiting Committee said that the school should develop a well-communicated professional development plan that aligns with the school improvement goals and delivers high-quality support for teachers’ growth. Professional development is a key issue for follow-up mentioned several times in the self-study and in conversations with the Visiting Committee.
At the end of January 2018, the Accrediting Commission for Schools met to grant accreditation status to IPS, which was communicated in February.
The Visiting Committee
• Gregory A. Franklin, Ed.D., Chair: Superintendent, Tustin Unified School District, California
• Rev. Fr. Wirach Amonpattena, Co-Chair
• Kanit Klaijumlang: School Director, Chiang Rai International Christian School, Thailand
• Nel Capadona: Superintendent, Chiang Mai International School, Thailand
• Kelley Ridings, Ph.D.: Principal, Shanghai SMIC Private International School
• Stephen Roderick: Principal, Nakornpayap International School, Thailand
So what’s next?
In 2021 we need to produce a mid- cycle report that demonstrated that we have addressed the critical areas for follow-up, and in 2023 we need to complete another self-study.