What NEASC Accreditation Means for RHS
Jasmin Morse, Veritas Editor-in-Chief and Web Editor
Many classes have come and gone since Rockland High School’s last 10 year accreditation in 2011 when today’s high schoolers were still in elementary school. This year RHS is meticulously going through the initial steps leading up to being re-accredited in 2021. To accredit a school the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) sets up a painstaking process of self-reflection and evaluation for the school community.
NEASC has been accrediting schools since 1885 and today is helping to improve over 1500 public, private, and international schools all over the globe. As an accreditation agency they aim to help schools self-evaluate their systems at the same time helping ensure schools meet and exceed the standards they set to be a well accredited school. NEASC looks for schools to complete three “R’s: reflection, review, and renewal. Accreditation is a process that ensures a school is meeting NEASC’s “Standards for Accreditation” that focus on five key areas:
- Learning Culture
- Student Learning
- Professional Practices
- Learning Support
- Learning Resources
The re-accreditation process takes place every 10 years although the process begins every 8 years after being accredited. This 8 year mark acts as a preliminary assessment of the school and reassesses the goals set from prior accreditation. In the end, RHS will reach the end of this cycle’s accreditation process in 2021.
Taking the lead of the 2019 re-accreditation process has been social studies department head, Richard MacAllister, social studies teacher, Gregory Rowe, and RHS Principal, Dr. John Harrison. Together they have worked to set up guidelines based on NEASC protocols, and to organize the self-evaluations conducted by teachers and staff throughout the school.
Through the school year, teachers, staff and some students have been busy preparing for the intense process of re-accreditation. During the year-long process, the staff has been looking at the school’s strengths and weaknesses and discussing how best to ensure our students are well equipped for life after RHS. This information is a part of the school’s self-analysis that will be presented to the NEASC visiting team.
The purpose of this preliminary step in 2019 for the 2021 accreditation is to establish what needs to be improved as explained by Mr. Rowe, “NEASC looks at all aspects of the school – from administrative roles, how teachers teach, facility functions – and student work.”
NEASC officials will be visiting RHS next week on March 28 and 29 for a Collaborative Conference. For the students, this means certain ones will be leading officials on tours of the facilities. On the tours, students will be guiding the officials around the halls of RHS pointing out all the features that make RHS unique.The NEASC officials will also ask questions along the way regarding the effectiveness of the school environment, compliance with local fire, police, and safety regulations as well as the cleanliness of the building.
Students have also been selected to participate on a panel where officials will ask them questions regarding the school environment. Mr. Rowe explains, “NEASC is looking forward to talking to students to find out what they feel are the strengths and weaknesses of Rockland High School.” Here, they can better assess what goals need to be set and what needs to be prioritized for the 2021 accreditation.
To complete this process teachers have been asked to provide samples of student work. Mr. Rowe continues, “They are looking for what kinds of exemplar work the students of Rockland produce.” Additionally, selected teachers, administrators, parents and community members have been selected, like students, to participate in panel meetings with the NEASC officials.
On the day the four NEASC representatives arrive, they will be served lunch by RHS’s Pathways Grille. Every Thursday teachers are given the option to buy lunch from the cooks of the Pathways classroom: so, on the Thursday of the visit, NEASC officials will receive a meal as well.
While the process of self-evaluation is time-consuming for administrators and staff, Principal Harrison noted that it is highly beneficial because it allows for self-reflection, which in turn identifies areas of needed growth. This leads to the formation of an improvement plan, and allows for collaboration among staff. Overall, Dr. Harrison said that it is an opportunity to “celebrate everything RHS has to offer.”
For more information on the accreditation process, go to the Rockland Public Schools website.