By Rebecca Alger:
The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) will be visiting campus for their triennial evaluation on Mar. 22. WASC’s purpose is to ensure that each school is meeting its proper standards and improving to meet students’ changing needs.
[pullquote]“The most important part of the evaluation and accreditation process is truly reflecting on what is working and identifying our areas of growt. It’s important to include all staff and both parent and student communities in the process so that we include all perspectives and always continue to improve Gunn,” former WASC coordinator Dawna Lindsell wrote in an email. [/pullquote]
Depending on the scores from past evaluations, a visiting committee comes every one to three years. Gunn is currently in its 2009-2015 cycle, so this year there is an outside review to ensure that Gunn is still meeting its goals. “In 2009, Gunn was given a six year accreditation, which means that we are doing well and have a good plan in place to keep doing the things we do well,” former WASC coordinator Dawna Linsdell wrote in an email.
“The most important part of the evaluation and accreditation process is truly reflecting on what is working and identifying our areas of growth,” Linsdell said. Evaluators meet with not only the administration and teachers, but also students and parents. “It’s important to include all staff and both parent and student communities in the process so that we include all perspectives and always continue to improve Gunn,” Linsdell wrote.
The majority of the assessment is based on a self-evaluation conducted by the school. “The self-evaluation is where we really look at the school,” Principal Katya Villalobos said. “It gives us an opportunity to look at the school and shake it up a bit, but also to celebrate what we’re doing really well.” As a result of the self-evaluation, it is rare for schools to become aware of new problems through the WASC evaluation. “Recommendations that the WASC visiting committee puts together are usually the same as those that the school identified in their self evaluation,” WASC Executive Director David Brown said.
Schools are graded in almost every aspect, from student stress to Academic Performance Index (API) scores. “Criteria is created internally by people in the field who know how a school should run, what it should be able to do and what the correct environment for learning is,” Brown said.
At the 2009 evaluation, Gunn was recommended to work on recognizing student achievement, involving students more in decision-making and training all the departments. Gunn was also recommended to work on closing the achievement gap between minority students and finding a better way to assess student achievement for at-risk students performing below grade level. “New programs like College Pathways have really helped us,” Villalobos said. “It helps underrepresented kids leave Gunn with the background and resources they need to succeed at a four-year college.”
Evaluation write-ups always include specific goals and ideas for change but they are not an exact scientific procedure. “Goals are an ever-evolving process,” Villalobos said. “We are constantly looking at how we are teaching and learning and how we can make Gunn even better.”