Happy New Year and welcome back! This is one of my favorite times of the school year because teachers, staff and students are rested and re-energized. For the next several months we get to build on the foundations created throughout the fall. Our work includes building on two major initiatives – in addition to the campus plans, 6+1 writing, and others – that will help take our school up to the next level. Those initiatives are an extensive TIS “self-study” for accreditation by the Northwest Association of Independent Schools (NWAIS, formerly PNAIS), and a comprehensive teacher development and evaluation system.
Accrediting organizations are important sources of best practice expertise, resources, and peer group sharing for every aspect of the school’s program and operations. TIS has accessed these benefits regularly over the years, having been accredited by the Northwest Accreditation Commission (NWAC) since 2003, and having been an active member of NWAIS for many years.
Thanks to the school’s maturation and development in and out of the classroom, our board of trustees, school staff, and NWAIS itself feel that we are ready to pursue the rigorous NWAIS accreditation, in addition to renewing with NWAC. This process will provide an objective outside review of our program, more support for school improvement, and validation and recognition of our institution.
Accreditation is a lengthy process that involves examining all aspects of a school’s operation, including sections on the school mission, teaching program, culture, commitment to diversity, institutional leadership, finance, administration, institutional advancement, enrollment management, human resources, health and safety, and facilities. For each section, the candidate school forms committees to examine school practices and document plans for improvement. This self-study process is managed by the school and guided by NWAIS. It is then evaluated by a peer group review team that includes educators and administrators from other NWAIS member schools. (Since TIS is an NWAIS member, Business Manager Rob Timmons and IB Coordinator Teresa Wirsching have been part of accreditation peer group teams for other schools' accreditation efforts.)
TIS began the self-study process in August 2012. Since then, committees of teachers and administrative staff members have met to review our practices and answer the NWAIS questions for each self-study section. The February 2013 parent and staff surveys also provided input, and trustees and a few parent representatives have now joined the committees to add their perspectives. Everyone’s contributions are being incorporated into a narrative that describes our current practices, strengths and areas for growth.
We are working to finish the self-study – an estimated 180 pages – by spring break, at which point it will go to our peer group review team. The ten- to fifteen-person review team will be on campus for the accreditation visit May 11-14. The commission will make a final decision for our accreditation in late 2014.
We have been consulting with NWAIS throughout this process. The site visit team chairs made a preliminary visit to TIS in September, read a draft of our program section last month, and encouraged us to proceed with the effort. The self-study process has already been rewarding. Our committees have been cross-grade and cross-track, helping staff members form and deepen relationships with more and different colleagues. This makes us more a cohesive staff, and exposes us all to more ideas and points of view. In the end, we will have a significant group accomplishment that gives us a clear picture of what we are doing well and where we need to focus.
Over the next several weeks in ITK, I will be sharing findings and recommendations from each self-study section, which will include the teacher development and evaluation initiative. We are also putting together an online Q&A forum, an informational web page, and opportunities for me and other staff members to meet in small groups with parents to discuss the self-study. Please watch ITK next week for details about these opportunities. I am excited to share this work with you.
Robert Woods, Head of School, RobertW@intlschool.org , 503-226-2496 x122