Spring 2010

Culture

AdvancED Accreditation Embraces Cultural Relevancy

AdvancED Accreditation Embraces Cultural Relevancy

AdvancED is deeply committed to respecting the importance of culture relevancy in serving the accreditation and school improvement needs of Nonpublic Schools. Behind this commitment lies a belief that a diverse community of schools can contribute more effectively to the greater body of educational knowledge and research than groups of schools working in isolation. All schools, regardless of size, structure or mission have something to give to one another and it is the students in our schools who will ultimately stand as the greatest beneficiaries of our collaboration and cooperation.

AdvancED is deeply committed to respecting the importance of culture relevancy in serving the accreditation and school improvement needs of Nonpublic Schools. Behind this commitment lies a belief that a diverse community of schools can contribute more effectively to the greater body of educational knowledge and research than groups of schools working in isolation. All schools, regardless of size, structure or mission have something to give to one another and it is the students in our schools who will ultimately stand as the greatest beneficiaries of our collaboration and cooperation.

The challenge we face in embracing a diverse community of schools is to do so in a way that not only recognizes their uniqueness but celebrates it. The AdvancED vision for the accreditation for Nonpublic Schools is built upon the interplay of four essential elements that form the foundation of the accreditation experience. Those elements consist of comprehensive research-based standards, an integrated aligned systems-based process, the cultural competence of the team, and the procedural competence of the chair. These four elements, when implemented in unison, provide the greatest potential to move the accreditation experience to a truly transformational level.

Element One

AdvancED provides schools with comprehensive research-based standards for effective organizational and instructional practice applicable to all schools, regardless of the variation in mission, size or structure. AdvancED indicators provide schools with research-based evidence in meeting standards, but stop short of providing the institution with specific benchmarks that can and will vary from one school type to the next. AdvancED standards and indicators also are supported by identification of relevant practices and artifacts. While there are traditional practices and artifacts applicable to all schools, it is here that the mission specific evidence is brought fully into play. Schools should seek to bring together evidence that clearly and purposefully describe who they are and what they stand for, both academically and culturally.

Element Two

The next essential element in the accreditation for Nonpublic Schools is an integrated, aligned systems-based accreditation process that seamlessly connects the self study, the peer review visit and the peer review report, to the post visit follow-up, responding to the required actions provided by the team. AdvancED recognizes that schools are more than a collection of independent classrooms. We believe that schools are dynamic systems that are more effectively understood through the vision of a systems thinking lens. The AdvancED process not only looks for effects in the form of student achievement results or other statistical data, but for patterns and relationships existing within the system itself. An effective accreditation experience not only takes into account the nature of the issues being dealt with at the time of the visit, but also examines the viability and integrity of the internal systems and processes that govern the identification and resolution of issues into the future. This systems thinking approach is most clearly seen in the peer review team report. Commendations and required actions are no longer communicated to the school as disconnected, isolated, linear thoughts, but are organized and presented to the school systemically and also include the supportive evidence and rationale behind the observations. From beginning to end, the process guides the school into a more relevant systems vision of itself enhancing both its organizational effectiveness and its capacity to sustain itself into the future.

Element Three

The third element of effective accreditation involves the cultural competence of the team. Cultural competence is established by staffing the team with a critical mass of individuals who have understanding and experience with the cultural realities existing in any given school. Cultural competence can be mission specific as in the case of independent schools, special purpose schools or faith-based schools, such as Christian, Catholic, Islamic, Lutheran, etc. Cultural competence also is related to school type and school location such as K-12, elementary, middle, high school, post secondary, distance education, corporation, career technical, Department of Defense, boarding, day, single sex, or international schools in Latin America, Asia, Middle East and Europe. The observations and evidential insights provided through cultural competence of team members are experiential and intuitive. Written evidence provided to the team that is mission specific or culturally relevant, while valuable, is practically irrelevant in the hands of a culturally incompetent team. The cultural competence of the team is one of the most critical components needed to experience a transformational visit for the school.

Element Four

The fourth element essential for the effective accreditation of Nonpublic Schools is the procedural competence of the chair. In order to have the highest quality accreditation visit the team chair must be a process expert. The chair should have a deep appreciation of the total accreditation process from the self study to the peer review visit to the accreditation progress report. The chair must be a strong leader, an effective communicator and have complete command of even the most mundane logistical and organizational details from team travel and managing the visitation schedule to delivering the oral exit report. In order to achieve the highest level of team quality, the procedurally competent chair should demonstrate cultural competence as well.

With these four elements in mind, the goal of AdvancED is to provide Nonpublic Schools an aligned and integrated accreditation process built on research-based standards and indicators supported by culturally relevant, mission-specific evidence. Schools should experience a peer review visit led by a qualified chair and staffed by a culturally competent peer review team who both understand and appreciate the unique cultural context of the school. This philosophy also defines our working relationship with other accrediting agencies. In these relationships we work directly with accreditation partners to provide the highest quality accreditation experience possible where the values of both partners are fully and authentically integrated into one seamless accreditation experience. Co-accreditation relationships were traditionally defined by either blind recognition or split teams that invariably called for one or both partners to be effectively marginalized. This is replaced by the strengths-based model built on cooperation, integration, mutuality, and a sincere desire to leverage the knowledge and resources of both agencies on behalf of the receiving school. It is our belief that this approach will more effectively position Nonpublic Schools to experience the most relevant, inspiring, growth-producing and transformational accreditation experience possible.

Dr. Eddie Krenson is currently the Vice President for Nonpublic School Services at AdvancED. He graduated from the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee with a degree in History. He received his Masters Degree in Education Administration, Supervision and Curriculum from Purdue University and his Ed.D. in Education Leadership and Professional Practice from Trevecca Nazarene University. Krenson is an IDEA Fellow, served as past president of the Tennessee Association of Independent Schools and vice president for the Southern Association of Independent Schools, and attended the Harvard Graduate School of Education “Institute for Independent School Leaders.”