WASC Accreditation Team to Visit UC High in March


The poster for UC Highs’s Schoolwide Learner Outcomes.

Shaynen Gold, Staff Writer

   In order to assess the school’s accreditation status, a team from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) will be on campus from March 13 to 15 to observe classes and verify UC High’s Self-Study Report, a 150-page document that includes information on student demographics, test scores, and general information about the school.

   According to Self Study Coordinator Susan Bristol, all high schools must be visited periodically by a WASC team to verify that what is included in their Self-Study Report is accurate and ensure that what is being taught, how it is being taught, along with the environment in which it is taught, among other things, is up to WASC’s standards. Based on the WASC team’s own observations and the data in a school’s Self-Study Report, an accreditation score is given to the school accordingly. “A school must be accredited in order to be considered a reputable school. Basically, if a school is not accredited, the students’ transcripts don’t officially count for high school graduation or for admittance to college,” said Bristol.

   Bristol explained that the accreditation team from WASC is tasked with verifying that the content of the self-study report is accurate. As part of this process, the WASC team will visit each teacher, sitting in on different classes and possibly ask students about what they are doing and why. Additionally, the WASC team will hold meetings with the five Focus Groups, who were tasked with writing one of the chapters of the report, to review more information on the school through the lens of the community.

   “There are five Focus Groups. Each has one or two leaders and each group is in charge of answering prompts that deal with different elements of the school. Each group has representatives from the different parts of the school community, including teachers from each department, counselors, administrators, parents, students and even some classified staff participate,” said Bristol.

   Bristol mentioned that each Focus Group is assigned an overall topic. The topics include school culture, instruction and teaching, curriculum, assessment and organization. Together, the Focus Groups respond to prompts as a committee. These responses are then included in the self-study report and reviewed by the WASC team before they arrive for the visit and then they have the opportunity to ask questions at  meetings with each Focus Group.

Focus Group Leader Maureen Quessenberry weighed in on her role in the WASC visit. “As the leader of a Focus Group, I was tasked with working with a group of staff, students, and parents to do a deep dive into an aspect of our school,” she said.

   Quessenberry added, “My group’s focus was on Teaching and Learning. Our job was to look at the evidence and talk about the state of teaching and learning at UC. I then helped to synthesize all of our findings into a document and then we all came up with opportunities to improve and areas where we are excelling.”

   Besides these staff-based groups, the WASC team will also be interacting with students and their parents / legal guardians. Bristol explained, “They will pass out tickets during the day and say ‘You’re invited to come visit the team.’ They have a meeting without any staff, just with the students… they basically say ‘Be honest; tell us what it’s really like here at UC High.’ They will do this with the parents too.”

   Principal Mike Paredes expressed his thoughts on the WASC visit: “My hope is that when the WASC committee comes, they notice the positive energy of our school community.”

   Paredes asked that students welcome the WASC representatives during their visit, but treat the days they will be on campus as they would any other day, “It’s not supposed to be a horse and pony show. We want our visitors to see a true reflection of who we are during their visit… Staff and students should be prepared to provide real responses to the questions that they might ask.”

   “It’s a time for us to be proud of what we’re doing well and a time for us to be reflective about where we want to go as a school,” said Paredes. He continued, “An ongoing growth plan is really what WASC is about. Our visitors will provide a lens to help ensure we’re making strides in the areas we’ve identified, along with several other areas we can improve upon.”