BY Gabe Otero
Teachers of Bonita Vista High School have begun meeting for the Self-Study stage of accreditation, preparing for the sexennial review by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) expected in the Spring of 2015.
WASC, an accreditation service that serves Western nations and states, essentially wants schools and colleges to provide the highest possible learning experience. WASC ensures quality education by visiting schools and noting where they have succeeded and where they need improvements. They then discuss these points with the school faculty.
This accreditation is crucial for parents, students, and faculty alike because it measures the school’s integrity and improvements. For students, it provides benefits like Cal Grants and a-g course listings. Colleges also make sure that the school is accredited to ensure that the school is legitimate and that the student’s grades accurately reflect his or her level of education. For parents, WASC accreditation gives a basis to decide where they should send their child. Because WASC accreditation is fairly standardized, parents know that if a school is accredited by WASC it is an institution that provides quality learning. Just like colleges with students, employers that hire teachers check to see if the school they worked in is accredited.
“Getting accreditation is important so that we can continue to exist as a public high school,” Focus on Learning (FOL) leader, Patrick Beaulieu, said.
While the actual visitation by WASC is scheduled for 2015, the process of self-study is now beginning. Self-study is part of the six year cycle that WASC encourages so that institutions of learning reflect on what has or has not been effective in the school’s curriculum, and if they are on the right track. Through self-study, schools are able to look back and see if the programs they implemented should be perfected or abandoned.
According to principal Bettina Batista, WASC established goals for Bonita in its last review, the two major ones being to “add more intervention programs” and to “increase the collaboration between counselor and teaching staff”.
One critical way of promoting and exercising self study is through the collaboration of teachers. Teachers and staff are placed into FOL groups, in which they plan to talk about many different aspects of the school. With the help of WASC materials, these FOL groups are able to notice trends in school statistics, and more importantly analyze why they are occurring.
“The unstable school population concerns me, but I love to see the growth and involvement in IB, and the growth of the intervention programs which target students with D’s or F’s in the data,” Beaulieu said.
With this dedicated approach to analyzing data, Bonita hopes to give a thorough and critical report of its improvements and failures so that it can pass the visitation portion of the six year cycle and, most importantly, to improve the school. By going through the Self-Study stage, Bonita will set new goals and paths to follow for the future.
“What good is data if you don’t look at it and do something about it,” Batista said. “We ask ‘what are the steps that we [can] take for greater success’?”
With the extensive role of the FOL meetings, even teachers learn about the process and the school itself. WASC encourages the entire school to get involved, including the administration, the counseling team, and all the teachers. By using this tactic, Bonita plans to have collaboration and meaningful discussions about education.
“[In FOL meetings] I can see all the other pieces of the school’s [puzzle],” Beaulieu said. “We all have the same goals, we’re just in charge of different pieces of it. It brings teachers together in a meaningful way.”
Batista and Beaulieu both actively participate in the process as leaders and as learners.
“As principal, I oversee the entire process, but I also participate as a member in FOL meetings,” Batista said.
“I like being in the process, I can see where I fit in as a member of the school community and I can get a better understanding of how my role can help students,” Beaulieu said.
The process of Self-Study will continue until the Spring of 2015, in which Bonita will hand in its self-review and be open to a three day visit by the WASC committee. Until then, the staff will continue to attend meetings and reflect on the school’s improvements and failures.