WASC: what you need to know

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Jason Levy

Mackinley Sebahar, Sports editor

The Accrediting Commission for Schools, Western Association of Schools and Colleges is known around schools as ACS WASC. Accreditation assures a school community that the school’s purpose is appropriate. The commission encourages improvement in several different types of schools through a continuing evaluation. The commission consists of 32 representatives from all around the world that were selected by the Commission’s Nomination Review Committee from candidates nominated by member organizations.

“It’s the people who come and make sure that we are doing the best job we can to teach students and that our school is organized well, that our staff is teaching what they are supposed to, and that we are doing the best job we can for students,” WASC Coordinator and journalism teacher Mrs. Ryan said.

ACS WASC assures that an institution has clearly defined objectives and is achieving those goals. It supports development and improvement.

“They want to make sure we are doing what we say we’re doing,” principal Dr. Porter said. “They look at it and they want to know that we can self-evaluate and that we can identify areas that we need to grow and that we can come up with an action plan to address the needs.”

Through an auditing process, Carlsbad High applies for courses to become A-G compliant. WASC comes to check on meeting the needs of student, the amount of A-G approved classes, the amount of honors classes and the amount of support for students that are struggling.

“No school is 100% perfect,” Porter said. “They help us look at our action plan and give recommendations.”

Whether it be one, two, three or six years, WASC will re-visit at some point in the future for the same evaluation. The amount of time is based on if the WASC Committee sees CHS following through with the action plan.

“They also want to make sure that what we feel we are doing is resonating with the student body and they are having the same experiences that we think they are having,” Ryan said. “They want to know that if your teachers are saying this is happening, is that what [students] are experiencing in the classroom.”

Last year, some of the students felt they were not connected with the school according to data given to Carlsbad High. Since then, Dr. Porter has planned to make sure kids felt connected with the school.

“That’s just one example of how we check to make sure that the kids feel how we think they should feel,” Porter said. “At the same time we do it for the community. Parents have a lot of perception of what is going on in the classroom. If they think one thing and we’re doing something different, then there is not enough communication out there. And sometimes we think something, and parents say no we really need this.”

The process of being accredited is a long process, usually around a year and a half for CHS. Some schools take several years.

“There’s a training process,” Porter said. “It requires more funds for our school site and we have to hire a coordinator.”

Mrs. Ryan volunteers most of her time to doing it as a teacher to coordinate for the teachers.

“We go through the training and come up with a game plan to start everything from surveys to research to see what data we have,” Porter said.  “There’s a very scripted process report that we have to write and we start with chapter one and work our way through it. It’s probably about the equivalent of a dissertation or a Master’s thesis by the time we’re done with it with all of the data and how much information we share.”

At each point along the way, all aspects of the school become involved: kids, teachers, administration, classified staff, parents, and community members. ACS WASC will visit Carlsbad High School for three days after spring break to do an evaluation. The main benefit is the improvement that will come after analyzing the data that comes out of the assessment.

“Students will again be surveyed soon after about that connectedness with the school so we can see if what we are doing is having that impact that we think it is,” Porter said. “School safety and connectedness matters.”