Wendy Parcel | Coordinator, Accrediting Commission for Schools, WASC
Does your school have a self-study soon and you are wondering how to write a report that will not overwhelm a visiting team with its length? Or perhaps you are scheduled to chair a self-study visit in the future and you are wondering how to keep your team’s report to no longer than 30 pages. The key is to focus on analytical writing.
For example, let’s consider the ACS WASC/CDE Focus on Learning Criterion A4 “Staff: Qualified and Professional Development.” While it might be tempting to make a list and describe all of the professional development that has occurred over the last few years, or to outline your school or district process for hiring new teachers, the criterion prompt states, “Evaluate the school’s effectiveness in addressing the criterion and each of the above indicators; include supporting evidence.” In the Supporting Evidence section of the template, you can link to your school’s professional development calendars and to the policies and practices for hiring teachers. Make sure you have taken the time as a school to consider if that staff development is effective and garnering the results you want, or if your process for hiring teachers is ensuring that you have the ability to maximize the expertise of the staff members in relation to impact on quality student learning.
Chairs, the related questions for your team asks, “To what extent does a qualified staff facilitate achievement of the student academic standards and the schoolwide learner outcomes through a system of preparation, induction, and ongoing professional development?” “To what extent is there a systematic approach to continuous improvement through professional development based on student performance data, student needs, and research?” Notice that both questions begin with “to what extent.” Your team is tasked with determining to what extent is their professional development making a difference and how does the school know and show that to you and the team.
While writing the self-study or the visiting committee report, consider the following: are the actions the school is taking making a difference for students? How do you know? By focusing on analytical writing you’ll tighten up the reports and strengthen the process.