And now for something a little bit different. For this blog post, I’ll be answering a few of the questions that were submitted by parents for last week’s town hall meeting. It is my strong desire to keep parents updated and connected to the school, our mission, and our program. I’m glad to engage in some of these questions today and will answer a few more next blog post. If you have more questions, feel free to leave them in the comments!
Can accreditation be explained, and where are we exactly in that process. What are the positives of accreditation, and the negatives for not yet being accredited?
Accreditation can be explained, and I will be more than glad to do so. Accreditation is a tool that challenges us toward self-improvement and creates internal and external accountability so that we fulfill our ministries with excellence. In our case, we are pursuing accreditation with ACSI and Middle States. Of course, even without accreditation, we are constantly self-evaluating and improving our programs. However, accreditation, developed by experienced professionals outside of our organization, serves as a fixed reference point helping us to better facilitate effective self-evaluation.
The ACSI program is a three year program that we began in October with our formal application. We have met with our regional director to outline a plan and a strategy. After a few pieces of preparatory work, we will begin the two year self-study this Spring. The self-study leads us through evaluating and improving 92 indicators of school excellence. After the self-study is complete, an accreditation team visits the school to do a final evaluation.
I will keep the school family updated on the process as we go. The bottom line is this - this significant investment will help to improve our school in a systematically proven way from top to bottom. We appreciate your prayer as we enter into this rigorous program.
The positive points of accreditation are primarily that we have a formalized program for school improvement, have comparison benchmarks outside of our school, and have stronger marketing with broader approval through a recognized organization. It essentially ensures the quality of our program. The major negative of being thus far unaccredited is that some of our credits are not recognized by out of state Boards of Education for transferring students. (They are recognized everywhere in PA.) Once we are accredited, our credits will be recognized everywhere in the US. This only affects students transferring to other high schools, not to colleges..
How does the new model for class selection work for high school students? I would like to know how that can be done more effectively so when students are given options of what they want to take that they are able to then take those classes.
I understand the concern of this parent regarding our new class selection model for the high school. Historically, we did not offer many choices for our high school students. If you were in 10th grade, the schedule was set and all of your classmates took the same classes as you. As we have expanded our options, we have focused on adding both diversity in class offerings and honors level courses.
With more options, students sometimes will need to choose. Certain classes have to be offered at the same time and so students may not be able to take both and will have to decide between two appealing options. We create the schedule carefully so that each student gets the classes they need and has as many options as possible. In many cases, if a class is not available, a student can take the same course in a future year.
Can you provide a curriculum update?
Curriculum is on all of our minds right now as a staff - because it is the first item that we have to tackle on our road to accreditation. Right now, all of our curriculum is being updated and evaluated on all levels and in all subject areas to prepare for the accreditation self-study. (See more on accreditation in the first question.) This directly benefits the classroom as we evaluate the tools and processes we use in each class. Time is also spent on reviewing biblical integration, assessment tools, and instructional materials. This process ensures we are using current resources and the best educational techniques. Once this process is complete, we will enter a cycle where a few curriculums will be evaluated every year so that each area is assessed on a 5 year rotation. Curriculum essentially works as an evaluative tool for teachers in a few areas. It helps us create unit plans, select appropriate textbooks and materials, and provide benchmarks of success for each subject area.
How does this school encourage and monitor students' progress toward meeting grade-level standards?
The most important issue in monitoring student achievement is quality and consistent assessment by the classroom teachers. There is a two-pronged approach to this issue. The first is to ensure that we have the highest quality curriculum in place being taught by qualified and expert teachers. These two items are guided by curriculum review processes and our teacher professional growth and development plans. The second is to carefully assess each student against our curriculum, in a consistent manner, with informal and formal assessments. This gives us the data we need to track each student.
We also use standardized testing scores as an outside source to aid in tracking student progress. BCS gives the Terra-Nova standardized test to most of our grade levels and also uses PSAT and SAT scores as benchmarks for our older students.
Philip S. Warner, administrator of Berks Christian School.