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NEASC Accredits NHS, Releases Report

Published: May 9, 2016

A report has been released following a New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) announcement it has continued Newtown High School’s accreditation with the agency.

The report was released by NHS on Wednesday, April 27. The roughly 100-page document details the efforts the school made for the NEASC review and the commendations and recommendations made by the accrediting agency following a visit in October.

A letter was released recently from NEASC to NHS Principal Lorrie Rodrigue, who shared the letter with the Board of Education and Superintendent of Schools Joseph V. Erardi, Jr, at the school board’s meeting on April 19. The letter previewed the report and shared the news that NEASC voted to award NHS continued accreditation.

“The Committee on Public Secondary Schools, at its January 24-25, 2016, meeting, reviewed the decennial evaluation report from the visit to Newtown High School and voted to award the school continued accreditation in the New England Association of Schools and Colleges,” the April 7 letter reads.

The report delved into aspects of the school and community and shares commendations and recommendations based on the seven standards set by NEASC for accreditation.

“The accreditation program,” according to the report’s introduction, “for public schools involves a threefold process: the self-study conducted by the local professional staff, the on-site evaluation conducted by the Committee on Public Secondary Schools’ visiting committee, and the follow-up program carried out by the school to implement the findings of its own self-study and the valid recommendations of the visiting committee and those identified by the committee on public secondary schools in the follow-up process. Continued accreditation requires that the school be reevaluated at least once every ten years and that it show continued progress addressing identified needs.”

According to the report, the visiting NEASC committee based its “professional judgment” for the report on a review of the school’s self-study materials; 51 hours shadowing 16 students for a half-day; a total of 11 hours of classroom observation (in addition to time shadowing students); numerous informal observations in and around the school and tours of the facility; individual meetings with 32 teachers about their work, instructional approaches, and the assessment of student learning; group meetings with students, parents, school and district administrators, and teachers; and the examination of student work including a selection of work collected by the school.

Commendations

Commendations in the report included the use of varied and current education research to drive the creation of challenging academic expectations and targeted high levels of achievement; a “palpable sense of pride and mutual respect between students and staff that are reflective of the social and civic expectations”; the use of a reward system to further embed social expectations; the inclusion of multiple opportunities for students across all disciplines and co-curricular programs to ensure that all students practice and achieve the graduation standards; the time available in professional learning community meetings to discuss curriculum; and “the tremendous amount of time and additional support willingly provided by teachers for individual students within and outside of the classroom.”

Further commendations included the wide range of supports provided to help students to review and improve work; the safe, positive, respectful, and supportive culture and caring relationships exhibited among all members of the school community; the school’s culture of inclusion for students identified with needs; and the “immaculate, safe facility which fully supports teaching and learning.”

 

Recommendations

Recommendations included implementing a civic and social expectations rubric fully; completing and implementing the written curricula for all courses in a common format, purposefully designed around the revised graduation standards; ensuring effective curricular coordination and vertical articulation between and among academic areas within the school as well as with sending schools in the district; providing sufficient staff and technology to fully implement the curriculum; developing and implementing more opportunities to engage all students in cross-disciplinary learning and self-assessment and reflection in all curricular areas; and including data from sending schools and postsecondary institutions and survey data from current students and alumni for the purpose of revising curriculum and improving instructional practices.

Further recommendations included ensuring optimum class size in all content areas; ensuring technology supports the delivery of the effective range of coordinated services for each student; providing dependable and adequate funding for a wide range of school programs and services, and a full range of technology to support teaching and learning; and ensuring that professional staff further reach out to engage parents as partners in education, specifically to those families who have been less connected to the school.

There were 52 commendations listed in the report and 27 recommendations.

As the April 7 letter said, NHS is required to file a two-year progress report with NEASC by October 1, 2017. Before then the school is expected to “implement valid recommendations in the evaluation report.”

The full NEASC report is available online off of the high school’s website, newtown.nhs.schooldesk.net by clicking on “NEASC Report.”

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