Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Sorenson’s Ranch School will be going through the accreditation process during the next year. Our accreditation team visit is scheduled for April of 2014. During the last year, the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) has decided to have all schools accredited by AdvancED, an organization which, with the addition of the states in the old Northwest Association, currently accredits schools in forty of the fifty states. Under the old system, a school could earn a maximum term of six years if the visiting team felt that the school was doing a very good job, a 3 year term if the team felt somewhat less confident about the schools performance, or a one year term if the team had significant reservations about the academic environment. The new system allows for only two outcomes: either accreditation is renewed for a five year term, or accreditation is denied. The criteria for accreditation have changed somewhat under AdvancED, and as a result, we will be changing the ways that we do some things in our school. One third of our faculty attended a workshop sponsored by the USOE last fall which was designed to acquaint school personnel with the new standards and indicators. In addition, our principal was able to participate in three accreditation team visits during the month of April. He reported that this experience was very helpful, not only because he had the chance to go over the standards and indicators in depth with the other members of the visiting team, but also because he was able to see how other schools with a mission similar to ours are implementing reforms and gathering data to comply with the new standards. As part of this process, a new stakeholder survey will be conducted within the next few months which will give respondents an opportunity to give us feedback on our performance and make suggestions about how we can better serve our students and their families. Along with implementing suggestions from our stakeholder surveys, we will be setting up some new assessments to help us better measure where our students are academically when they come to us and how much learning has taken place while they attended our school. The visiting team consists of a representative from the USOE (representing AdvancED) and other education professionals from similar schools. Together, these members conduct classroom observations, faculty and support personnel interviews, stakeholder interviews, and a documentation review in an effort to accurately assess whether or not the school is adequately performing its stated mission and complying with the stated objectives of AdvancED and the USOE. This process allows the school to be commended for “powerful practices” and to be given “required actions” in those areas that the team feels need improvement. We welcome the chance to work our way through the process of self-evaluation and the formal team visit in the coming months.