School Improvement and the Schoolwide Action Plan

School Improvement

For over five decades, the Accrediting Commission for Schools, Western Association of Schools and Colleges (ACS WASC) has played a vital role in assisting schools with school improvement. There are two primary functions in our process: one is to provide quality assurance, we have specific criteria that schools have to meet in order to be accredited. Second, and more important for us, is whether or not a school is adding value to the experience of children and whether they engage in a school improvement process. The ACS WASC process provides the foundation for a culture of clear understanding of a school’s purpose and schoolwide student goals and for the analysis of achievement and actions to improve learning.

ACS WASC accreditation is a powerful process for school improvement and student success. Internalizing ACS WASC accreditation is synonymous with ongoing school improvement and meaningful change, thereby providing the underpinning for the effective functioning of a school.

Schoolwide Action Plan

The accreditation process is a perpetual cycle of assessment, planning, implementing, monitoring, and reassessment (self-study, visit, and follow-up). During the year prior to the visit, a school clarifies or redefines its expected student learner outcomes (schoolwide learner outcomes) and begins the formal self-study process that assesses the actual student program with respect to the criteria. The self-study process culminates in the development of a three- to five-year schoolwide action plan.

Sample Action Plan

ACS WASC Six-Year Cycle for Schools

  • Past Cycle — Year Six:  Completion of Self-Study, Visit, Refinement of the schoolwide action plan after the visit
  • New Cycle:
    • Year One:  Profile Update, Progress Report, Refinement of the schoolwide action plan
    • Year Two:  Profile Update, Progress Report, Refinement of the schoolwide action plan
    • Year Three:  Profile Update, Mid-cycle Progress Report and One- or Two-Day Review), Refinement of the schoolwide action plan
    • Year Four:  Profile Update, Progress Report, Refinement of the schoolwide action plan
    • Year Five:   Review of all Profile Data, Progress Report, Progress and Program Analysis (beginning of next Self-Study), revision of the schoolwide action plan
    • Year Six:  Completion of Self-Study, including refinement of schoolwide action plan, visit by ACS WASC Team, revision of the schoolwide action plan after the visit

Subsequent to the visit, the school refines and implements the action plan. The Leadership Team coordinates this implementation, annual review of progress, and the refinement of the “next steps” of the action plan in meeting the goals. All the follow-up is done with respect to evidence that students are accomplishing the established schoolwide learner outcomes.

ACS WASC Focus on Learning Action Plans (Private Schools)

ACS WASC Action Plan Diagram

ACS WASC/FOL Suggested Action Plan Components

Include the following components in each section of the action plan:

  • Statement of area for improvement (goal)
  • Rationale for area based on self-study findings
  • One or more schoolwide learner outcomes addressed
  • Ways of assessing progress, including student achievement of the learning results (and curricular standards)
  • Specific steps, including professional development
  • Timeline (month, year)
  • Responsible (designate by asterisk) and involved person(s)
  • Resources
  • Means to monitor and report progress to all members

ACS WASC/CDE Focus on Learning Action Plan Format
(California Public Schools)

ACS WASC Action Plan Diagram

The components of the Single Plan for Student Achievement and the components of the ACS AWSC Focus on Learning action plan are in harmony. The components are identical in concept; the specific actions of the Single Plan for Student Achievement are expressed in more detail. The incorporation of the ACS WASC critical areas for follow-up into the Single Plan for Student Achievement fulfills the requirements of the school improvement process — one plan satisfies both entities.

  Area of improvement   School goal
  Link to schoolwide learner outcomes   Link to LEA goals
  Rationale   Data used—who was involved
  Growth targets   Growth targets for focus students
  Ways of assessing student achievement   Ways of measuring student achievement
  Means of monitoring and evaluating   Process for monitoring and evaluating
  Specific tasks/actions   Strategies/actions
  Who is responsible/involved   Personnel involved
  Timeline   Start/completion date
  Resources   Proposed expenditures

Updating the Action Plan

Following the full self-study visit and annually on an ongoing basis:

  • Review the current schoolwide action plan sections and the critical areas for follow-up in the Visiting Committee Report.
  • Identify the concepts or suggested ideas stated in the critical areas for follow-up.
  • Integrate all appropriate concepts and suggested ideas from the Visiting Committee Report’s critical areas for follow-up into the action plan:
    • Update the current goals or areas for improvement.
    • Update the appropriate tasks and activities.
    • Update other appropriate components, e.g., who is involved, who is responsible, the timeline, the ways of assessing progress, and the fiscal and personnel)
    • Add a new section to the action plan, if necessary.