WASC team to evaluate school

Ever notice suited people sneak into your classroom during a lesson, not saying a thing, standing at the back of the class, watching?

Wonder why your teachers write the standards and objectives on the board, and sometimes make you write them on your assignments?

And how about the tons of posters all over campus explaining and emphasizing Stagg PRIDE?

This is all implemented at school to meet the criteria of an organization called WASC, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. The school is now in preparations for the assessment by a WASC team of seven that will visit April 6-9.

The two WASC coordinators, Deborah Spector and Thongthip Duangsawat, along with five focus group leaders, have put together a report evaluating the school in terms of curriculum, instruction, and other areas. WASC officials visit the campus to validate what is in the report and give feedback and recommendations upon their study, then issue an accreditation of anywhere from one to six years.

Reflecting on her first year collaborating on the WASC process of this scale, Duangsawat has found the work to be “overwhelming.”

“I’m seeing the school from all angles, beyond the four walls of my classroom.”

Despite the trials in ensuring the school gets accredited, Duangsawat sees the value in the process. “WASC is helpful because it gives us a chance to reflect on ourselves. Even if we’re doing ‘just swell,’ we want to do better.”

The efforts of teachers, staff, and even students to make sure criteria are met may seem tedious, but it all has a purpose in trying to improve the school. The report highlights strengths but also focuses on aspects that can be improved. For example, according to the curriculum section of the report, elective textbooks are either “dated or nonexistent.”

Spanish teacher Julio Lopez has experience dealing with the outdated textbooks, saying that the taped-spine textbooks have been in use since the year 2000.

“We’re still using textbooks that show cassettes and tape recorders.” Modern technology, such as tablets and notebooks, is nonexistent. Access is limited to the computer labs on campus, and the outdated computers can take a long time just to turn on. Victoria Marinelli misses having a library on campus but also wishes to have more access to the computer lab for Common Core and MAP testing, as well as for her English students to type essays.

“The computers… need faster Internet and better programs. The programs are four to five years old and there’s no RAM.” She describes problems with the computer lab, saying, “Sometimes a computer will crash in the middle of testing. I usually move my student to a different computer if one’s available, but sometimes there isn’t one. It’s a big hassle.”

Teachers have to work around missing tools in order to effectively provide for students’ overall education, while still meeting the new Common Core standards. The WASC report and inspections can help introduce these tools into the curriculum or refine what’s already available.

The report concludes with a set of action plans that are goals for the future.

Accreditation isn’t just a stamp of approval; it verifies that the school is doing what it’s supposed to do. On a larger scale, an accreditation determines whether the high school diploma is valid. Spector emphasizes this point as she tries to make the student body aware of the significance of a diploma from an accredited school. If a high school, college, or university fails to be accredited, students’ diplomas will be worthless.

If the school is not accredited, Spector said, then “your diploma is just a piece of paper; you can throw it away and it wouldn’t matter.”