Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic School holds dual accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and the Southern Association of Independent Schools (SAIS).
2008-2009 Accreditation Report
- NCEA (National Catholic Education Association)
- GISA (Georgia Independent Schools Association)
- AAAIS (Atlanta Area Association of Independent Schools)
- NMSA (National Middle School Association)
- NAESP (National Association of Elementary School Principals)
- NASSP (National Association of Secondary School Principals)
SAIS-SACS Standards & Indicators with Commentary
These standards are for use by schools having SAIS-SACS visits after July 1, 2007. The SAIS Accreditation Committee developed and approved these standards and indicators, which replace the 2004 version.
The commentary in italics after each indicator is provided to help you assemble the appropriate evidence as you respond to the indicators in writing and prepare for your visiting team.
1 — Vision & Purpose
2 — Governance & Leadership
3 — Teaching & Learning
4 — Documenting & Using Results
5 — Resources & Support Systems
6 — Stakeholder Communications & Relationships
7 — Commitment to Continuous Improvement
STANDARD 1: VISION & PURPOSE
The school establishes and communicates a shared purpose and direction for improving the performance of students and the effectiveness of the school.
IMPACT: A school that commits to shared beliefs and mission establishes expectations for student learning that are aligned with the school’s vision. These expectations serve as benchmarks for assessing student performance and school effectiveness and are supported by school personnel and external stakeholders. The school’s mission guides allocations of human, time, material, and fiscal resources. STANDARD 1 – INDICATORS:
Establishes in collaboration with its stakeholders a mission for the school that guides all planning and decision-making.
The mission of the school is an essential written foundation on which all programs and organizational structures are based. It is the foundation upon which the school is built. It does not depend on a founder or donor; it has a life of its own in the vital activity of the school. It is written, sometimes memorized, always reviewed, and understood by all stakeholders. If there is a motto for the school, it derives from and supports the mission. It can be found at the beginning of the school’s charter or bylaws, in its handbooks and viewbooks, in its admissions materials, displayed on the walls of classrooms and offices, and in the minds and hearts of the entire school community. 1.2 —
Identifies goals to advance the mission of the school and ensures the mission is congruent with principles of academic scholarship: permitting and encouraging freedom of inquiry, diversity of viewpoints, and independent, critical thinking.
The goals should be aligned with and reflective of the mission. Examples of such alignment can be found in the minutes of meetings about school policy and administrative/faculty decisions. Schools should ask themselves, “Will this goal help us carry out our mission?” 1.3 —
Ensures the beliefs and mission guide the instruction and curriculum throughout the school and reflect research and best practices concerning teaching and learning.
Regular discussions about educational philosophy, developmental psychology, and organizational design should clearly reference the mission. Debate about new directions or new methods of teaching/learning should evidence consideration of the mission, in some cases, suggesting review of the mission itself. If the mission is sound, it will allow for wide ranging discussion on methods and means of achieving it. 1.4 —
Regularly reviews its mission and revises when appropriate.
Without regular review and reconsideration, a mission can become nothing more than a historical landmark in the school’s existence. Missions do not have to change regularly; many remain useful for decades. But missions do require maintenance and careful consideration if they are to influence the work of the school. The intervals and timing for such review are up to the school. 1.5 —
Provides evidence that no form of bias or prejudice is allowed or practiced within the mission scope of the school in order to promote an equitable, just, and inclusive community that inspires students to respect and value diversity.
Assuming that the mission is lawful and powerful for guiding the development of children, no SAIS member school should fear that its mission is too “out of the mainstream.” One of the grand foundations of non-public education in this nation, dating back to the Pierce v. Society of Sisters decision at the beginning of the last century, is the assurance that all schools have a right to exist as long as they obey established law and serve the general public interest in improving the citizen life of the nation. Within the meaning of this standard and indicator, SAIS member schools go the extra mile of assuring that, within the meaning of their mission, they allow no discrimination and, in fact, promote diverse communities and interactions with fairness and equity. Top
STANDARD 2: GOVERNANCE & LEADERSHIP
The school provides a governance, leadership, and organizational structure that promote student performance and school effectiveness.
IMPACT: School leaders are advocates for the school’s vision and improvement efforts. Leaders provide direction and deploy resources to implement curricular and co-curricular programs that enable students to achieve expectations for their learning. Leaders encourage collaboration and shared responsibility for school improvement among stakeholders. STANDARD 2 – INDICATORS:
— Operates within the jurisdiction of a governing board or civil authority and, when necessary, has a charter, license, or permit to operate within that jurisdiction.
Evidence should point toward the by laws or charter that clearly states the authority of a school-based, 501c3 credentialed board that makes ALL final decisions related to every aspect of school life and organization. Schools that function under the authority of another 501c3 authority, such as an ecclesiastical bishop or national organization, must show the location of evidence that such authority has been delegated to the school’s board. 2.2
— Assures that the governing board provides for the continuity of mission.
A specific board minute on an annual review basis or a statement in the board handbook requiring such is clear evidence. 2.3
— Complies with all applicable statutes and governmental regulations.
In real personal or organizational life this is a difficult expectation to guarantee. The spirit of this indicator expects visiting team members to be pointed toward documentation that assures compliance “to the best of the school’s knowledge.” It should be remembered that non- compliance with some laws and regulations (i.e., number of days in the school year, fire codes, zoning regulations) could put the school in legal and financial jeopardy. 2.4
— Maintains access to legal counsel who can advise or obtain necessary information about the legal requirements and obligations that exist in the state, federal, or other jurisdictions in which it operates.
The name(s), affiliations, and relationship documents should be indicated by location in the school records. 2.5
— Assures that the governing board clearly defines roles and responsibilities for board members and the head of school, and provides procedures for board and head orientation and evaluation.
A board handbook is the best evidence. 2.6
— Assures that the governing board supports and models inclusive decision-making methods.
Examples from the minutes are an excellent indicator. 2.7
— Establishes by its governing process policies to ensure no conflict of interest between business, professional or parental roles and duties to the school.
Annual signed consent forms from each board member are the best indicator. 2.8
— Has a governing board that hires one employee, the administrative head of school.
A statement in the board handbook and/or orientation materials provides good evidence. 2.9
— Establishes policies and procedures that recognize and preserve the executive, administrative, and leadership prerogatives of the head of the school.
Clear statements in the board policy manual, the bylaws, the board minutes, and/or the school handbook are evidence of the head’s authority. 2.10
— Assures that the governing board does not interfere with the day-to-day operations of the school.
Clear statements in the board policy manual, the bylaws, the board minutes, and/or the school handbook can serve as evidence of compliance. 2.11
— Assures that the governing board establishes comprehensive monitoring of overall school policies.
Board minutes, retreat agendas, or other meeting minutes can attest to this. 2.12
— Assures that the administrative head of the school allocates and aligns the human, instructional, financial, and physical resources in support of the vision, mission, and beliefs of the school. The school head shall have responsibility for the expenditure of all funds raised in the name of the school by booster clubs and other related organizations of students, parents, alumni, or supporters.
Examples in minutes of official administrative reports show compliance. 2.13
— Assures that the governing board provides for stability in transitions of leadership.
Minutes or meeting notes related to discussion of orderly succession plans for board leadership and for headship are a valuable indication of attention to this important governance duty. Policy statements in board handbooks add clarity to such discussions. 2.14
— Analyzes student performance and school effectiveness.
Attention to this subject in minutes or board retreats provides evidence2.15
— Assures that debt service or lines of credit are managed in such ways as to ensure that fiscal responsibility remains under the control of the governing authority.
The location of financial records regarding debt and credit should be made clear to the visiting team2.16
— Assures that the school is not in, nor in prospect of moving into, financial reorganization under the protection of bankruptcy.
Absence of litigation or court proceedings provides clear evidence. Further evidence might include the lack of any board level records of discussion of liquidation or bankruptcy, and the operation of the school without extensive debt and within a balanced budget for more than one year. 2.17
— Assures that the governing board provides adequate risk management policies for the protection of the school.
A copy of the insurance policies (or directions to their location) provides good evidence. 2.18
— Provides adequate documentation of insurance or equivalent resources to protect its financial stability and administrative operations from protracted proceedings and claims for damage.
Written statements by pro bono or retained counsel AND a copy of the liability coverage policy in effect provides evidence. 2.19
— Maintains a plan to fund a maintenance reserve.
The evidence of a reserve fund in place indicates that the school takes this need seriously. The amount in such a fund depends on the school’s financial capacity, its physical plant size and age, and the complexity of its program.Top
STANDARD 3: TEACHING & LEARNING
The school provides research based curriculum and instructional methods that facilitate achievement for all students.
IMPACT: The school that implements a curriculum based on clear and measurable expectations for student learning provides opportunities for all students to acquire requisite knowledge, skills and attitudes. Teachers that use proven instructional practices actively engage students in the learning process, provide opportunities for students to apply knowledge and skills to real world situations, and give students feedback to improve performance. STANDARD 3 – INDICATORS:
— Develops and aligns the curriculum and instructional design with the school’s mission and expectations for student performance across subject areas and grade levels.
The visiting team will be looking for evidence in conversations and written statements about the teaching and learning philosophy of the school. Remember that the emphasis here is on broad subject/grade levels, not within individual classes or courses. The mission language should show up often in minutes or official notes of division meetings and in the descriptions of how the school organizes its instructional program to accomplish its objectives. 3.2
— Implements curriculum based on clearly defined expectations for student learning.
Expectations should be listed in handbooks or curriculum guides and should be the subject of minutes of faculty meetings. 3.3
— Assures that the curriculum relies on sound learning principles and provides a balance of educational experiences, including academic, fine arts, and physical education based on knowledge of human growth and development.
In-service programs and/or other faculty seminars can assure attention to these principles and experiences. 3.4
— Assures that the curriculum promotes the active involvement of students in the learning process, including opportunities to explore application of higher order thinking skills and to investigate new approaches in applying learning.
The school must provide examples (written and/or observable) of such activities. 3.5
— Offers a curriculum that challenges each student to excel, reflects a commitment to equity, and demonstrates an appreciation of diversity.
A current curriculum guide is the best indicator of evidence. 3.6
— Promotes the use of relevant data and research in making curriculum, instructional, and organizational decisions.
Minutes on this subject taken in faculty meetings assure continual compliance.3.7
— Provides for articulation and alignment between and among all levels of schools.
All school divisions should have written statements that demonstrate the school’s attention to this subject. 3.8
— Assures that there are written curriculum guides and support materials that serve as a basis for implementing the curriculum.
Evidence of guides currently in use is adequate. 3.9
— Instructional time is allocated and protected to support student learning.
Apart from requirements of state law, such time should be evident in the scheduling documents for the school. 3.10
— Plans an academic calendar with a minimum of 175 days (or more if required by state law) during which students and teachers engage in teaching/learning activities (Note: For half-day kindergarten programs, one-half day is equivalent to one full day in meeting the 175-day standard).
Evidence of compliance with state law is adequate, along with a copy of the school’s calendar. 3.11
— Provides comprehensive information and media services that support the curricular and instructional programs and the mission of the school.
The school’s library or media services guides should make clear the relationship of resources to mission. 3.12
— Assures that, in schools without a central library, students have access to all resources necessary to accomplish developmental learning goals.
Specific alternatives should be identified and described. 3.13
— Assures that the school has a policy and procedure for responding to challenged materials.
A written statement on this topic, adopted by the board, is appropriate evidence. 3.14
— Assures that all students and staff members have regular and ready access to instructional technology and a comprehensive materials collection that support the curricular and instructional program.
Physical evidence of such is adequate. Top
STANDARD 4: DOCUMENTING & USING RESULTS
The school enacts a comprehensive assessment system that monitors, documents, and uses results to improve student performance and school effectiveness.
IMPACT: A comprehensive assessment system provides timely and accurate information that is used to assess student performance on expectations for student learning, evaluate the effectiveness of curriculum and instruction, and determine interventions to improve student performance. Performance measures generate information that guides decision-making and planning to improve student performance. The assessment system yields information that is meaningful and useful to school leaders, teachers, and other stakeholders in understanding student performance, school effectiveness, and the results of improvement efforts. STANDARD 4 – INDICATORS:
— Provides a comprehensive system for assessing student progress based on clearly defined student results for learning.
A curriculum guide is the best evidence for this, although other policy handbooks may provide evidence as well. 4.2
— Uses assessment data for making decisions for continuous improvement of teaching and learning processes.
Examples of documented uses of data for student placement, teacher preparation, and curriculum adjustments are sources of evidence. 4.3
— Conducts a systematic analysis of instructional and organizational effectiveness and uses the results to improve student performance.
Annual or semester reviews in faculty groups by division are evidences of such use. 4.4
— Maintains a secure, accurate, and complete student record system in accordance with state and federal regulations.
This system and/ or related policies should be available for team members to view. Top
STANDARD 5: RESOURCES & SUPPORT SYSTEMS
The school has the resources and services necessary to support its mission and purpose and to ensure achievement for all students.
IMPACT: The school that has sufficient human, material, and fiscal resources provides a curriculum that enables students to achieve expectations for student learning, meet special needs, and comply with applicable regulations. The school employs and deploys staff well-qualified for assignments and provides ongoing learning opportunities for all staff to improve effectiveness. STANDARD 5 – INDICATORS:
— Assures that administrative, instructional and support staff are qualified and competent to perform the duties assigned to them in the school in order to meet the needs of the total school program and the students enrolled.
The focus here is on two characteristics of excellence at independent schools – competence of employees and meeting the needs of students. Clear position descriptions are the best evidence, coupled with specific qualifications of the individual regarding their suitability for the work assigned. Apart from certification and subject matter accumulation, heads or division leaders must be able to explain reasons for hiring. Written statements are best, added to portfolios, and available to team members. 5.2
— Provides written policies covering recruitment, employment, assignment, evaluation, and termination of service of all school personnel.
Employee handbooks are the best evidence. 5.3
— Assures that there is an effective orientation program for faculty and staff new to the school.
Annual programs with agendas and minutes are the best evidence. 5.4
— Assures that all staff participate in a continuous program of professional development.
The emphasis is on ALL STAFF, including but not limited to faculty, administrators, administrative, and custodial staff. While the specifics of the program are up to the school, there must be evidence that a formal method is in place. 5.5
— Implements an evaluation system that provides for the professional growth of all personnel.
Minutes or written examples of fair use are the best evidence.5.6
— Provides counseling services that meet the needs of students.
However provided, these must show alignment with mission and needs of students.5.7
— Assures that students whose needs cannot be met in school are referred to appropriate agencies for assistance.
Written examples of recent actions are good evidence. 5.8
— Establishes written procedures for termination of any student.
Consistency and compliance with state law are necessary. Written policies in student and parent handbooks are the best evidence. 5.9
— Has a written crisis management plan.
A written plan that is understood and practiced by faculty/staff and that is annually reviewed is the best evidence. 5.10
— Provides documentation of ongoing health and safety inspections that verifies an environment that is safe, healthy, and orderly.
This can be satisfied with certificates of inspection from agencies that are charged with inspecting and certifying the campus on safety matters. Examples would be, but are not limited to, health inspections of the cafeteria, inspections of fire extinguishers and sprinkler systems, and elevator inspections. 5.11
— Maintains the accounts of the school in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), audited annually by an independent licensed accountant. The report of the annual audit is onsite and available to the accreditation visiting team.
Business manuals, procedure handbooks, a copy of the audit, and business manager knowledge provide evidence of this. 5.12
— Budgets sufficient resources to support its educational programs and plans for improvement.
The financial reports of the school must be made available to the team on the campus. Written assurance of complete disclosure is evidence for this indicator. Top
STANDARD 6: STAKEHOLDER COMMUNICATION & RELATIONSHIPS
The school fosters effective communications and relationships with and among its stakeholders.
IMPACT: The school that has effective communications and relationships enjoys the understanding, commitment, and support of stakeholders. School personnel seek opportunities for collaboration and shared leadership among stakeholders to help students achieve expectations for student learning and to advance improvement efforts. STANDARD 6 – INDICATORS:
— Fosters collaboration with community stakeholders to support student learning.
Evidence of head discussions and presentations with key civic groups and leaders is adequate. Records of meetings with board members add to the evidence. 6.2
— Assures that communications among and between school staff, stakeholders, and alumni are clear and effective.
Examples of related materials, newsletters, letters, e-mails and other communications are good evidence. 6.3
— Uses the knowledge and skills of parents to enhance the work of the school.
Periodic parent meetings along with an organized volunteer program would be good indicators of compliance. 6.4
— Assures that there is evidence of communication with appropriate agencies, such as public health, mental health, physicians, and other professionals.
Examples of recent communications provide evidence. 6.5
— Assures that the school’s advertising and promotional materials reflect accurate information about the school’s programs and accomplishments.
Admissions materials and viewbooks should align with physical and testimonial evidence. 6.6
— Assures that there is a well-defined, published admission process including criteria upon which admission decisions are made, and that professional ethics are strictly observed in the admissions process.
Interviews (by team members) with parents and students should provide clear evidence, along with written assurances of such in materials. 6.7
— Accepts students for whom there is a reasonable expectation of success from the program.
Evidence of compliance should demonstrate admissions decisions based on a student’s compatibility with the school’s mission, program, and academic guidelines. Non-academic based decisions should clearly reflect the school’s ability to serve the student. 6.8
— Bases financial aid and scholarships upon established and published criteria.
Such criteria should be available in writing. 6.9
— Conducts follow-up studies of graduates and other former students, using the resulting data to improve the school.
Retention and attrition studies of students, results of alumni surveys, and written summaries of interviews with parents provide evidence. Surveys of faculty/staff and students can also provide important data to help improve the school. 6.10
— Emphasizes elements of citizenship and conduct that include honesty, integrity, trustworthiness, responsibility, citizenship, self-discipline, and respect for others.
Evidence of these attributes in the mission, objectives, program, and curriculum are useful pieces of evidence. Surveys can also provide important evidence. 6.11
— Assures that guidelines for student conduct, attendance, and dress are written and communicated to all students, parents, and members of the staff.
Written notices are key indicators of compliance. Where uniforms are required, the team should easily be able to compare the written dress code with the actual implementation of it by the student body. Top
STANDARD 7: COMMITMENT TO CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT
The school establishes, implements, and monitors a continuous process of improvement that focuses on student performance.
IMPACT: The school that implements a collaborative and continuous improvement process based on clear expectations for student learning fosters the commitment and support of the stakeholders. New improvement efforts are informed by the results of earlier efforts and reflection on the engagement in the improvement process. Improvement efforts are sustained and the school demonstrates progress in improving student performance and school effectiveness. STANDARD 7 – INDICATORS:
— Assures that a strategic plan aligned with the vision, mission, and beliefs of the school is developed and implemented to guide improvement efforts.
A current strategic plan must exist and be available for review. 7.2
— Engages in a continuous process of improvement that is documented by a self study every five years explaining four essential actions: Describe the current school environment, student profile, performance indices, and organizational effectiveness (Profile); Explain the vision and purpose the school wants to pursue (Vision); Indicate how the school plans to move from where it is to where it wants to go (Plan); Explain how the school will show the results of its plan and its effect on future improvement (Results).
This is the self-study developed for the visiting team. 7.3
— Evaluates the effectiveness and impact of its continuous process of improvement, and takes action to correct any identified areas of noncompliance with standards, addressing recommendations for improvement.
Regular reviews and reports (as required by SAIS) provide evidence. Top