Visitors were roaming ASL and judging the school on many different categories just a few weeks ago. From February 28 to March 3, representatives from the Middle States Association (MSA) visited ASL for an accreditation visit.
These accreditations occur every seven years and require both the school and the MSA to take part and do different things for the school. By the end of the accreditation, ASL receives a report from the MSA about recommended improvements, and they create at least three goals for both the students’ learning and others for the running of the school in general.
One part of the MSA accreditation that is very important is the school’s job, called Excellence by Design. Eighteen months ago, twelve different groups of faculty, staff, parents, and students self assessed 12 different categories that the MSA accredit the school for.
The school first thinks about how they rate themselves. They rate themselves from one to four on each category. At the end of the last accreditation, ASL decided that they met every standard. Another part of ASL’s job is to think about their strengths and areas for improvement. “The whole idea behind this Excellence by Design is that a school says ‘these are the things we’re good at; these are the things we need to work on,’” said Ms. Robyn Chapel, the Director of Teaching and Learning, and the person who led ASL’s part in the accreditation.
As a result of the Excellence by Design, the school must come up with at least three goals to focus on. ASL created four goals in the end. Two of the goals have to be about student learning, and the others are more about the institution.
The first goal is cultural competency, where students can understand and accept different ethnicities, race and all different aspects of other’s culture.
The second is writing and investigation, which is for the students to develop their ability to investigate their ideas and meaning.
The third is organizational health, which means how the faculty and staff feel about working here.
Lastly they are going to create a written and aligned curriculum which is the last goal of the four created.
ASL also created a poster to show these four goals and have placed them in many areas around the middle school. The posters have these goals written on them in eye catching colors.
If ASL weren’t able to get accredited, it wouldn’t be considered a school. If the MSA came to a school and saw something too problematic or something they were very concerned about, they would give a one year accreditation and come back within that year. They would have a section of the report called Matters to be Addressed, which means the areas put inside the category are mandatory to fix, and must happen as soon as possible.
The MSA’s job is to make sure the school is a safe and functioning learning environment for students, and if a school isn’t, than it can be problematic. “If they gave a school a one year accreditation, which is basically like failing, it would normally because of some health and safety issue or maybe something financial,” said Ms. Chapel.
ASL did not receive a one year accreditation and have received their report and are fully accredited from the MSA. The report includes strengths and recommendations, most of which the school had previously identified. They also gave an oral report for faculty and staff who wished to attend it, where they talked about the good things and identified recommendations to improve the school.
For now, ASL will try to improve the school from the recommendations of the MSA and themselves. There won’t be another accreditation until 2023 and ASL will remain an official school.