By Charlie Keohane, Staff Writer
// After countless hours of assembling binders full of school work, hosting focus groups, and attending meetings, the Acalanes community’s hard work has paid off.
Acalanes High School received news of their successful accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) in June. Prior to receiving accreditation, committees of WASC commissioners evaluated all four of the Acalanes Union High School District’s (AUHSD) schools in March.
Accreditation is a process that ensures a school is practicing high quality learning and continued self-improvement. Accreditation also allows high school students to receive credit for their diplomas. WASC is one of the six world-renowned regional accreditation agencies in the United States that carries out this process.
Acalanes earned its official certificate of accreditation on June 16. The school received a full accreditation for six years with a mid-term visit in three years, one of the longest periods of accreditation that can be given.
With Travis Bell stepping in as the new principal last school year, the district expected WASC to include a midterm report to follow up on Acalanes’ plans for improvement.
Las Lomas, Miramonte, Campolindo, and the Acalanes Center for Independent Study also all received a full six year clear. However, Las Lomas and the Acalanes Center for Independent Study, like Acalanes, are scheduled to have a mid-term visit by the WASC committee in three years to check in on their progress reports.
WASC surveys the quality of schools through a cycle of assessment, planning, and the implementation of WASC feedback. Schools are also required to participate in a year long process of “self-study,” which includes parents, students, teachers, faculty, and stakeholders reflecting on what has been accomplished since the last accreditation.
In 2011, Acalanes received a six year clear with a three year progress report. Since then, Acalanes has made several improvements including updated graduation requirements, increased literacy support, and lower level algebra courses offerings.
“The process forces you to think critically and intentionally about what you’re doing as a school,” Bell said.
AUHSD is currently working on plans for targeted intervention, increased math and English scores, and decreased student stress. The district is also working on updating courses to be more engaging and relevant. This includes teachers assessing the amount and quality of homework assigned to ensure it is meaningful.
According to AUHSD Superintendent John Nickerson, there are themes of student wellness, academic stress, and equity in several of the district’s WASC reports.
“We’re working in those areas and will continue to work in those areas,” Nickerson said.
Bell believes the new block schedule, specifically the addition of Academy, is beginning to contribute to a more successful learning environment.
“Before we didn’t have a system in place for how we’re addressing those students who aren’t learning the material. It was on the student or on the teacher,” Bell said.
Academy is a 55 minute period on Wednesdays and Fridays where students can ask their teachers questions, remake tests and quizzes, complete homework, or just socialize.
Furthermore, Bell hopes to change the student’s perspective on school. He reminds students that “some stress is a good thing. We need it to grow and to learn.” To cope with this, Bell encourages students to be aware of all the resources on campus such as counseling and peer tutoring.
Although Acalanes staff are pleased with the outcomes of the recent WASC reports, that does not mean their work is done.
“WASC challenges a school to really think about its practices, what it’s doing well and what are the areas that it needs to work on,” Bell said.