the format for an action plan?
Where can I find data
about my school?
Where can I find more
information related to effective team practices?
When is training for Visiting Committee
members? For schools?
What's the best way to present
information in Chapter IV of the school's self-study?
How do Visiting
Committee's determine their recommendation for term?
are the things a school should consider in selecting a date for the
When I am doing my
prewriting to send to my chair, am I only writing on what was
assigned to me, or am I also expected to write a thought or two
(maybe more) on other areas of the document?
Our school is
considering asking for a one-year extension. We've had a great deal
of turmoil and expect new leadership before the end of this school
year. What's the process? What are the drawbacks?
What about type style,
readability, and clear writing? What will help us
present the most readable self-study or Visiting Committee report?
Our school is not
accredited. How do we begin?
evidence look like for the Visiting Committee?
How should we incorporate special education and
English language learner teachers and staff in home groups?
Will the visiting team want to see the actual surveys
and comments (students, staff, & parent) or is the summary adequate?
What's an appropriate format for a three-year revisit
What are critical learner needs?
My school wants to conduct a mock focus group meeting prior to our
visit. What questions should we ask? How might we structure this?
Just what are observers are looking for when they visit classrooms
during an accreditation visit? Are there materials we must make
available in the classroom?
the format for an action plan?
There is no prescribed format;
however, there are required elements. A table format is relatively easy
to use, but not required, You should use whatever format your
organization requires or you prefer. Check the Focus on Learning process guide
for help. Public schools should check out material on the
Single Plan for Pupil
Achievement as you can embed what you've learned during the
self-study into the SPSA as they are primarily activities and strategies
to improve student lerning.
Available data are growing daily. The
California Basic Educational Data System (CBEDS) provides longitudinal data
about the nature and number of subgroups of students and staff: how many
students are enrolled of which gender and ethnicity; how many students
graduated the previous spring; how many computers the school has; what's the age
and educational level of staff. Most of this data has been collected for a dozen
years - quite enough to show trends. If this data is not available at your
school site, check with your central office. SAT9 (STAR test) data should now be
available for a three year period. While subgroup data is mushy, it's getting
more refined. If your district purchased the Ready Reports CD-ROM from the
publisher, data can be manipulated in many different ways. If not, there are
printed reports and basic data are on the
California Department of Education,
web sites. The newly developed
School Quality Snapshot is another great source from CDE
Next, check with your local Chamber of
Commerce for data about the community. Often newspapers (most likely a local newspaper) will have data
from the most recent census organized by zip code. From this you can learn
things about things like household income, education level, community ethnicity. Need more? Read the local newspaper and pull articles describing the
community. With some diligence, you should find a number of stories each
year that give statistics on businesses, population growth (or shrinking) and
density, city initiatives, and your own school and district.
While there are many references, a great place to start is in Part V-B:
Working Together of your FOL process manual. Key materials from the larger
document, Working Together, published by the California Department of Education
(CDE) (but, no longer available for purchase
or download) are included. Many schools find that by
building team spirit, understanding team behaviors, and establishing team ground
rules, the work of subcommittees is more effective and productive. Having
rapport, trust, and etiquette smooth the (sometimes) rocky road.
Ingredients seen as
important to the successful set-up and
launch of such team efforts include:
- selection of
visions, goals, missions and/or
- distribution of
- allocation of
roles within the team
- training on how
to work together
Bruce Tuckman (1965)
proposed the 4-stage model called
Tuckman's Stages for a group. Tuckman's
model states that the ideal group
decision making process should occur in
(pretending to get on or get along
(letting down the politeness barrier
and trying to get down to the issues
even if tempers flare up );
(getting used to each other and
developing trust and productivity);
(working in a group to a common goal
on a highly efficient and
It should be noted
that this model refers to the overall
pattern of the group, but of course
individuals within a group work in
different ways. If distrust persists, a
group may never even get to the norming
Visiting Committee training is in September, February, and March of each year. Currently, returning members attend a half-day training; new members, a full
day. VC Chair training is held in September. School
training begins the year prior to the visit and is a three part series. Day one is normally scheduled for November, day two the following spring, and
day three the fall preceding a spring visit. In every instance there are
multiple locations throughout the state.
Check with WASC
for this year's schedule. Dates and locations are published on their
web site. A call may be in order if you're late registering (650.696.1060)
The most general answer is what
most clearly display's what you learned about how well your students are
learning (particularly as this relates to learning results and standards) and
what data (evidence, information) was used. All of this must relate to the
concepts in the criteria, be evaluative (how effective?), deal with
similarities and differences (departments, programs, groups of
students), and provide insight into what is or is not happening around
the critical learner needs. Often, schools use a narrative
format for the information and a list for the data (not matching the two). Other
schools present the
information and data in a table format, more clearly identifying which pieces of
data were most important for drawing the conclusion. Perhaps the best advice is that Chapter
be good reading which leads readers to the same logical conclusions reached by the school in terms of
the action plan. Don't forget the requirements for a prioritized list of areas
for improvement, and strengths (unprioritized) for each of the criteria. If you want to
see samples, do a web search (Google "WASC self-study" no quotes) and
you'll find many. Check with a sister school for others. And know,
there's no perfect self-study!
Using a rubric based on
the criteria established by the Accrediting Commission for Schools, the VC makes a recommendation.
Of the criteria (you can find these in your process book in the "Visit" section),
a large number relate to the
action plan (past history of action, reasonableness and rightness of current key
ideas, and the monitoring and follow-up processes at the school and district);
others relate to the process of developing and self-study; plus the criteria
Teams work to come to consensus on the recommended status; minority reports are
possible. It is the Commission that grants accreditation.
What are the things a school
should consider in selecting a date for the visit?
Selecting the date for the visit is very personal. You need to consider
(at minimum and not in priority order)
(1) current progress on the self-study. If you're struggling, think
about a later date to give you more time; if things are rolling along, earlier might be better.
(2) winter and spring breaks (and any other unusual events in your
school's life). Most schools like to have their self-studies in next-to-final-form before winter break so people's holidays are not
crazy; and, often a school will want to have the visit before spring break, again, to lighten the holiday. Since both of these breaks are
somewhat moveable, your district's schedule may affect choices. Think too about the spring Open House, a large drama production, testing
schedule (this one can really get in the way!), and other activities that might impact either the team or the school staff.
(3) members. Member training occurs between late January and early
March. WASC is finding it more difficult to fill committees these days. For instance, the team I'm chairing this year will have eight
members, currently we have four (including me) and our visit is in early April. Selecting an early date may mean that some members will not have had a chance to get to training. That's not always bad (a strong chair
and/or some experienced members can overcome this), but, all other things being equal, you want a pretty good chance that all members have
attended the appropriate training.
(4) finding out about term. The WASC Commission meets in
January, April, and June to review VC reports and recommendations. Fall
meetings are generally acted upon at the January meeting with any
carry-over to April. Part of when you make the
agenda depends on the swiftness of both the school and the VC in completing the required documents and getting the requisite number of
copies to WASC. But, you almost can't make the April meeting with an visitation
late February or March date. So, if you want to know about term early, have
an earlier visit and work with the chair to set a tight schedule for submitting documents.
(5) A number of schools are selecting a FALL date (late
October or early November). You must request (in writing) this change early
(December or January of the preceding year). In your letter, include some
suggested dates remembering to avoid CAHSEE administration dates.
In general, write what the chair assigned. Many chairs take the first cut at
chapter I, II, III, and V of the Visiting Committee report, leaving Chapter IV for the
rest of the team members. Don't overlook making yourself look good by being well prepared for the
visit and the chair happy by including ideas for the other chapters. Remember to read the entire report several times before and during
writing. The contents are not as linear as the format would suggest. Take information wherever you find it! Use the electronic version on the
pre-writing form either from WASC or from your chair.
Schools may request a one-year waiver from the Executive
Director. Waivers are granted for valid reasons. As you might guess,
simply not being ready isn't valid. Generally a school will receive one
waiver with the clear expectation that the self-study will be completed in time
for a visiting committee visit the very next spring. There seems to be no
"punishment" for the waiver - just an understanding that not
everything can go well for a school all of the time.
There are many good style guides, however key elements include
active voice, white space, consistent use of terminology and acronyms, and some
headings to help guide the reader. The generally accepted most readable
fonts are Arial and Times Roman. Georgia is an alternative to the somewhat
overused Times Roman. In general, serif fonts and ragged right margins
improve readability. When using a serif font for the body of the text,
headings can be in a non-serif font. Use bold rather than underline
for emphasis. Using both bold and underline to really emphasize a
word or idea is unnecessary. BOLD, CAPS, AND UNDERLINE used
together are worse!
The process begins with an application and payment for
an initial visit.
details on the WASC website. Once the application is filed, a team of generally two educators will visit the school based on
its initial work. At this time, candidacy or interim accreditation may be granted for up to
three years. At the end of this time, a full self-study and visit
occur. A school may be denied accreditation on the initial visit if it does not
meet the conditions or eligibility or the school fails to meet the
In general, evidence should be available and on display in
classrooms not gathered in an "evidence room." Tell teachers to post a variety
(work of different "natures" from a variety of students) of student work. VC members also see students working
as they do classroom observations, picking up what's happening now. The Visiting
Committee's work is to have thoughtful conversations with school personnel over
what they learned while examining student work. They are not there to do
the work of examining. Spend more time in conversations about meaning
during the self-study process and less time gathering stuff to prove "how much."
Some significant samples might be placed in the VC workroom to help ensure that
whenever members are in that room they "feel" and learn more about the school.
Consider: student and faculty handbooks, curriculum documents, school yearbooks
and newspapers, "larger" (often three dimensional) examples of student work
including some of the samples used during the self-study, portfolios (if they
are available), basic textbooks for core 9th and 10th grade students.
Think about adding photographs
of students working as part of the decoration. With the continuing
development of technology, many documents can be made available electronically.
If your school staff wants to walk around and celebrate
student work, do it! Enjoy if for the school's benefit, not the VC. This
can be a great time to see some work from other teachers/disciplines.
In addition, some schools have made lesson plans available (on
a desk or in a pocket near the door) to the VC as this was part of their ongoing
work to link lessons with both standards and learning results. By the way,
encourage teachers to do their best during the
There are two options. One is to treat each of these groups as separate departments
so that you have a home group of only special education teachers/staff and one
of only EL teachers/staff. A second model is to integrate these people
within the more traditional subject-area home groups (English,
mathematics, counselors) as most closely corresponds to their teaching
assignment. Either arrangement is acceptable. As a slight variation, you
might even consider looking at RS teachers differently from SD teachers.
The guiding thought out to be what seems a workable and reasonably
natural fit as the groups work to come to a common understanding of what
is happening schoolwide. Whichever you choose, it should be reflective of you
school's culture - either what it is now or what you're working toward.
There is no need to keep the original source data if you have
a good summary. It's the results and your interpretations which are
important for the Visiting Committee. Think about discrepancies in data. Do
students feel differently about an issue than staff? parents? Keep data on
how many of each of the surveys went out and to whom as well as the number that
responded - that is, what's the base for the information.
There is no "official" format, just an outline of
contents The directions
from WASC give you a great deal of freedom in presentation. If you've done
annual updates/reports, staple these together with maybe some cover
generalities. Check out information on Chapter II (for schools in process
pre-2014 visits it's Chapter III) of your self-study which is a
"complete" progress report over the six-year period. Click here for
here for WASC only schools.
Critical learner needs are those (1) academic skill or content
pieces which large numbers of students (or of subgroups) are missing or
are doing poorly on and/or (2) non-academic issues that impair student learning
(stress, attendance as examples) . Based on data, schools are to identify two for the purpose
of this self study. While they can be a general as "reading." It is more helpful
if you're able to say decoding skills for 27% of the students and content
reading skills for all other students. The finiteness helps to better understand
both the problems and the solutions. Sometimes schools wrongly make solutions
into critical learner needs so that the need sounds like "institute a special
reading program." The solution, once the problem is more finely defined, goes in
the action plan. The other difficulty is that schools identify the measure of
the critical learner need (lowering number/percentage of D-F grades,
scoring proficient on a test) as the need. Try to get to the need
itself, set measures (WASC calls them "growth targets"), study what
staff are doing and not doing to support student growth (use them as an
additional lens as you study the school's performance as it relates to
the concepts in the criteria).
With the critical learner needs identified, you should ensure that at least one
of your schoolwide learner outcomes (old name expected schoolwide
learner results) encompasses the needs (in the
example, the learning result might be "competent communicator" or
"academically competent" or "meets graduation requirements."
Because these learner academic needs will wind up as part of the action
plan, you should gather more data about how well students are doing on
your goals through the home/focus
There's no list of questions to stimulate
discussion. (Save the fallback: What did you learn? What difference will it
make?) They always come from the self-study and should lead to the action plan. For instance, if there are several
places within the self-study were is seems that families' voices are unheard,
you might ask a question or two around this. "In the self-study there are
several places where....., talk about how that affected (or not) your
discussions/decisions?" "Do you think this represents most parents or a small
but vocal minority?" "What difference does your understanding of this make?"
Focus group discussion should lead folks beyond the self-study (it's already
done) to the next step - If it's important, what can you do to improve it? Have
you the will? Have you (or can you get) the skill? Have you authority? Beyond
the self-study, the VC member and chairperson checklists in the FOL
manual are a source of insight. Look at the questions raised in their
preparation and time at the school. Even the task self-check questions
You might find a colleague or three from neighboring
schools who have served recently as VC members who would agree to come and role
play with you. It's better if
the "VC Members" not be members of your staff. They would need to do preliminary
work - at minimum talk with you (or someone) about the contents of the
self-study so the discussion is real. However, it's possible that your
colleagues have not had much (or bad) experience on a visit and may not give you
a realistic portrayal of what focus groups meetings sound like.
Looking for more help? Check out
The Visit page for some of
the materials used by Visiting Committee members.
Just what are observers are
looking for when they visit classrooms during an accreditation visit? Are
there materials we must make available in the classroom?
The VC will want to see the best of what's happening
in classrooms. If it's normal for you to have standards and learning results and rules/expectations on display, they should be there.
If not, not. Examples of student work should be on display. Some
teachers/schools feel the need to develop a notebook for each classroom. I think
this is not necessary as the VC's role is not to do the school's work. They just
need to see some representative samples that might show some different types of
assignments/activities from other days in the class. Teachers should not "dress"
their rooms. I'm sure there are adequate numbers
of materials (textbooks, support materials) already around. And, yes, the VC
will want to see students engaged in real learning work - tell teachers it's
best not to show a whole period of film or test. It's also true that this should
be as un-disruptive (is that a word?) to learning as possible. So the best of
the usual days.
You should also check with your chairperson as soon as you know him/her about
what her/his desires are. Be very open and communicative with the chair so
he/she become an excellent emissary for the school to the VC members. Were I
chair, I'd tell you that VC members would visit classrooms where there were
substitutes. Many schools will send a list of teachers out and tell you that you
don't need to visit these. How students react to substitutes and what goes on in
those classes is valuable
insight. You might think of establishing a list of "special" stuff happening
during the visit - a special debate or simulation, preparation for Senior
Projects, ROTC marching practice - invite members to be sure to take these in
even if they're outside the school day. I've gone early for an ROTC march and
back in the evening (briefly!) for a play production while on visits.
I've even heard of one team using post-it notes on the door to their workroom as
teachers and students invite VC members to events and classes.
That's the long answer. The short answer is classes as usual but on a dress-up
day. Again, check The Visit
page for more support.