By Lauren Wiener

There has been a lot of talk about NEASC going around Andover High School, but what is it exactly?

“The New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) is an accrediting organization that makes sure schools (public, private international, as well as colleges and universities) are effectively teaching students in a safe environment,” said Mr. Waters, one of the members of Andover High School’s Steering Committee.  And from Sunday, October 28, 2012 through Wednesday, October 31, 2012, Andover will go through this accreditation process.

Though the school is already accredited, every ten years the process must be repeated to ensure the school is teaching to the seven standards held by NEASC.  These standards are 1) Core Values, Beliefs and Learning Expectations, 2) Curriculum, 3) Instruction, 4) Assessment of and for Student Learning, 5) School Culture and Leadership, 6) School Resources for Learning and 7) Community Resources for Learning.  They are focused on the school providing students with the environment, programs, and learning opportunities that are in accordance with teaching to 21st century learning expectations.

So, what is Andover High School doing to prepare?  Reports are being conducted and written that respond to the seven standards listed above.  Assistant Principal Mr. Phillips, also a member of the Steering Committee, compared this process to a self-review of the school, which will be read by NEASC when they visit next year.  For each standard, there is a committee made up of Andover High faculty and led by a committee chair.  These committees “are gathering evidence, discussing the present state of AHS and looking ahead to where we want to be,” said Mr. Waters.  He also added that the Steering Committee “oversees the process, assists each standard committee and prepares for the visiting team’s stay in Andover.”

In order to prepare for the review next year, students will have a half day off almost every month — or a full day, in the case of this Wednesday.  This may be nice for students, but for the faculty it will be work, work, and more work.  During these in-service days, all seven committees will meet and gather evidence that supports the conclusions of each report.  Teachers will be discussing and determining the improvements the school needs to make.  Mr. Waters mentioned that “improved technology and class sizes are two major areas that teachers would agree that may need improvements.”  Mr. Phillips said that there is no one curriculum template for all classes and that this is something that may need to change.

Will all these half days have a negative impact on students?  Mr. Phillips said “there is a minimum state standard for how long students have to stay in class and that these half days won’t affect that.”  Mr. Waters commented that “ultimately, students will benefit from their lost class time since AHS is assessing itself and reflecting on how to better serve its students.”

The faculty is not the only group involved with the reaccreditation process.  Students and parents will also be assisting, and they have already taken part in the Endicott survey last year.

“Students and parents will be invited to sit on committees before final drafts of reports are completed to ensure an accurate depiction of our school,” said Mr. Waters.

After the NEASC visiting team leaves AHS in October 2012, an official report of their findings will be made.  The public will receive this report in the spring of 2013.  Any weaknesses will be addressed by AHS.  To make sure the school is responding to needed changes, a two-year and five-year progress report will be requested.  NEASC will provide suggestions but not dictate how the school will address these changes.  NEASC wants to help AHS be the best it can be, helping the school to adapt to changing times.

Accreditation entails a lot of hard work, but it is beneficial in the end.

“NEASC is making sure that we are meeting the minimum set of standards.  It is helping us to get to where we need to be,” said Mr. Phillips.  He added, “It also lets the community know that the school is doing what we need to be doing.”

Mr. Waters stated that “accreditation allows teachers to discuss their school, their classroom and their teaching.  Accreditation is a lot of work but to validate what we do well and to address our weaknesses to ensure our students are getting a good education makes all the work worth it.”

For more information, visit http://cpss.neasc.org.