NCA accreditation team to visit CHS

The North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement (NCA) will send a visiting team to CHS on March 2 and 3. The team will evaluate the school based on the organization’s seven standards and present a report of their findings.

History teacher and CHS Academics Director Josh Meyers reviews the School District’s 2009-2010 budget in preparation for NCA’s March 2 and 3 visit and evaluation.  (Eve Root)
History teacher and CHS Academics Director Josh Meyers reviews the School District’s 2009-2010 budget in preparation for NCA’s March 2 and 3 visit and evaluation. (Eve Root)

CHS has been accredited by the NCA since 1914. The school chooses to go through the process of accreditation once every five years, although it is not required to do so. The state only requires that CHS participate in the Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP).
The NCA accreditation process has two basic parts.
“First, we complete a report called a Standards Assessment Report (SAR),” CHS Academics Director Josh Meyers said. “This report, based on the seven standards, is the guidebook for the visiting team. The report for this cycle was 57 pages and was started by the entire faculty.”
Over the past year, CHS has been preparing for the visit.
“It began December of ’08, when we invited stakeholders, such as parents and students, to join the faculty and central office folks to review our mission and guiding principles,” CHS Principal Louise Losos said. “This year, we’ve spent a part of every faculty meeting working in small groups to prepare the SAR.”
The preparation process, not just the team’s visit, serves as a time to look critically at the school.
“Under each standard there are indicators,” Losos said. “Under each one we assess whether we are anywhere from the bottom, emerging, operational, or highly effective. There are some areas in which we are operational, which means we’re doing it, but it’s not really systemic, or emerging, where we just started working on it.”
According to Meyers, it is a time when light is shed on both negative and positive aspects of CHS, aspects that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.
“We have discovered some important things we can improve on, like being more effective users of data, and consistently examining and communicating school improvement results,” Meyers said. “More significantly we have affirmed a lot of things we are doing well, primarily in the field of ‘teaching and learning’. By having the entire faculty examine the seven standards, we really are conducting an internal audit of everything significant about our school.”
The second part of the process comprises the visit. Meyers said that after examining the SAR, the visiting team will come to CHS and examine artifacts, conduct interviews with stakeholders, including students, and observe in classrooms and hallways. There will be minimal disruption for the students.
“There will be eight members of the visiting team,” Losos said. “They will spend one full day, maybe a day and a half, interviewing people – teachers, support staff, students, parents, board members. They have a very prescriptive interview – they have specific questions that they ask, so we know what’s coming.”
The NCA team will present an oral report of its findings after school on March 3.
“They will report to the faculty a) whether or not we’re accredited and b) level of accreditation,” Losos said. “I am fully confident we will be accredited.”
Paul Hoelscher, CHS history teacher and chair of the African American Achievement Task Force, said accreditation benefits CHS by confirming the school’s hard work. However, he said he does not know that the preparation process is as helpful as the overarching goals the faculty has been working on for the past five years as part of the NCA work.
“We have three goals right now,” Meyers said. “The fourth one we finished three years ago – that one is the writing one. The three current ones are African American achievement, technology, and building community, which is more of a staff goal, instead of a direct student goal.”
Ideally, these goals are determined by examining student data, such as test scores, according to Meyers. In addition, he said faculty and staff input is a major contributing factor. The writing goal, building community goal, and technology goal were faculty-chosen, although some data was used to determine them, too.
In terms of the overall impact on students, Meyers said the faculty is trying new teaching strategies in classrooms and doing a lot of behind the scenes work at meetings in order to develop improved ways to teach students.
“[Students] may not know it, but the North Central work is impacting them all the time,” Meyers said. “And tangentially, it is a source of school pride, being able to say that we have this certification.”
After the visit, CHS will receive a formal written report containing praise and recommendations. The school must then follow up with the recommendations and send its results to the NCA’s parent organization, Advanc-Ed, or it could risk losing its accreditation status, according to Meyers.
When the visit is over, CHS will celebrate, as well as focus on areas that require improvement.
“It’s a very self-reflective time, where we say ‘what is it that we’re doing really well?’ and ‘where can we perhaps be doing better?’” Losos said. “Clayton High School is a great school, but it doesn’t mean we can’t improve.”
According to Meyers, the school benefits because the visiting team brings an outside set of eyes to look closely at what faculty and students see every day.
“Fresh eyes and fresh minds can provide fresh ideas,” Meyers said. “I also think it benefits us because it says to the community that we are an institution of excellence. We have been accredited through North Central since 1914, and we are the only school in the district that has that accreditation. That is something CHS is very proud of.”