Preparation for MSJ Accreditation

By: Lindy Zeng

Next year, MSJ will be visited by representatives from Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), an organization that provides accreditation to public schools in California (CA), Hawaii, and several American territories.

Accreditation approves schools that are “worthy of the trust placed in them to provide high-quality learning opportunities” and “demonstrate continual self-improvement.” Accreditation benefits students, the public, and the school itself, and also increases a school’s chances for public and private funding. In addition, the UCs requires all CA to be WASC-accredited in order to maintain an “a-g” list and colleges check transcripts to see if students have attended accredited schools.

The WASC accreditation process is a six-year cycle. Once every six years, representatives from WASC will conduct a one- to two-day “initial” visit at the school and write a report. WASC criteria include standards on the organization, teaching curriculum, instruction, assessment and accountability, school culture, and support for student personal and academic growth.

After the review, schools that meet the WASC criteria will be accredited, while others not yet ready for full evaluation may achieve “candidacy” status. If a school does not meet criteria, its accreditation status will be withheld and the school must reapply.

MSJ’s initial visit will take place in March 2014, six years after the last WASC review in 2008. Over the course of the next year, MSJ will be undergoing a “self-study” process which involves data collection, staff and community reflection, and analysis. Numerical information about the school, such as demographics, Academic Performance Index (API), and graduation rates are compiled into a report prior to the visit. Starting in the fall, the administration will organize “focus groups” consisting of parents, teachers, and students, who evaluate and discuss how well the school has demonstrated work towards MSJ’s Vision Statement for “the development of the mind, character, and physical well-being of our students through the creation of an environment fostering academic excellence, maturity, responsibility, and mutual respect.” A few months ago, administrators started revising MSJ’s Vision Statement. Last modified in 2001, the vision statement will be updated to reflect changes in technology and shifts in culture. The goals outlined in the vision statement encourage and support student development in the 21st century.

At the actual visit, the WASC team will visit classrooms and speak with focus groups as part of their evaluation process. After their review, MSJ will await accreditation results, and the cycle for improvement will continue over the next six years. Assistant Principal Carli Kim describes the preparation for the WASC review as a “learning process for the whole school and community to reflect on.”

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