By Nancy Gutierrez
Lindsay High School went through a grueling three day Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) accreditation process March 7-9.
WASC is one of six regional associations that accredit public and private schools, colleges, and universities in the United States. The Western Region covers institutions in California and Hawaii, and several U.S. territories, commonwealths and areas of Pacific and East Asia.
Though the accreditation is a voluntary, non-governmental process, LUSD Superintendent Janet Kliegl said all high schools must be accredited in order for colleges and universities to accept high school coursework. Accreditation certifies, to other educational institutions and to the general public, that an institution meets established criteria or standards and is achieving its own stated objectives.
"It basically says the academic learning environment [of non-accredited schools] is not good enough to prepare students to go to college," she said. "Accredited Schools have a rigorous academic environment."
The last time LHS went through the process they were given a six-year accreditation, the highest number of years a school can receive. This length of time is not usually given out.
A school is granted institutional accreditation after a comprehensive self study followed by an on-site evaluation of the programs and services of the total institution.
On Sunday March 7 six educators and administrators from schools throughout California arrived in Lindsay to evaluate the school's programs and educational environment. Included in the accreditation visiting team were: Ester Gutierrez from Clovis East; Patrick Koop from Riverdale; Sidney Craighead from Avenal, Chip Gaston from Santa Teresa; John Leal from Roosevelt and Donald Parner from Bayside Community Day School.
Each of the members met with school site team members and focused on different academic areas. Prior to the three-day evaluation the administration had to prepare a document with information specific to accreditation guidelines.
"It was a well written document and we enjoyed working with the staff and students in Lindsay," Gutierrez said. "Like all schools, there are some challenges to be faced but you will weather through them."
Each of the team members gave a brief overview of their findings. Parner discussed the curriculum and said there were many outstanding areas at LHS including the academic enrichment program, AVID program and research based teaching.
Issues in this area included maintaining a viable career pathway program and follow-up measures for students leaving the high school. Other team members discussed areas of strength and improvement at LHS focused around assessments, school culture, course variety, professional development and several other areas. The overall evaluation was given by Gutierrez who served as the committee chair.
"This is a good place to be and you can tell by the dedication you have to students," she said.
She listed a small amount of issues the school should address which included seeking ways to maintain a variety of courses for students, increase ongoing professional development opportunities, and increase effective communication between the school parents and community members. Gutierrez also praised the school for its emphasis of academic enrichment in English language arts and math, the nationally recognized AVID program and effective school leadership programs.
The visiting committee's job is to validate the school report, evaluate its findings, and make a recommendation to the Commission for a term of accreditation. The commission studies and discusses the visiting committee's report, with subsequent action to grant, extend or deny accreditation.
LHS Principal Mike Henson said the commission will hold a meeting at the end of April and the district should find out the results before the year's end.
Regional accreditation began about 100 years ago and arose from a desire on the part of educational institutions to establish standards of quality. The Western Association is the newest of the six regional accrediting associations. It was formed in 1962 by an amalgamation of several accrediting agencies. There are three commissions in the association which work with institutions at different levels.