What is the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)?
The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) is responsible for the accreditation of public and private schools in California, Hawaii, and the Pacific Basin region as well as other parts of the world. Its full name is the Accrediting Commission for Schools, Western Association of Schools and Colleges. WASC also works with organizations such as the California Department of Education and the International Baccalaureate.
What is accreditation?
Accreditation is a seal of approval that serves as a mark of institutional quality and organizational coherence. It is a voluntary process that schools may enter into in order to help improve the quality of their programs and operations through self-evaluation.
What criteria does WASC use to evaluate schools?
WASC-accredited schools must normally demonstrate that they (1) have a focused mission and goals for student learning; (2) are effectively organized; (3) have mechanisms in place to monitor student performance; (3) allow students to have a voice in the direction of the school; (3) possess a qualified faculty; (4) have the ability to regularly and collaboratively assess the quality of their educational programs; and (5) have a plan for the future.
Schools applying for WASC accreditation must typically lay out a series of strategic goals related to areas such as student learning and achievement, professional development, or collaboration between school administrators and staff and monitor their progress in reaching these milestones.
This is followed by periodic visits by a WASC evaluation team that will assess the school using guidelines that focus on:
- The level of student achievement;
- The capacity of the school to implement, monitor, and accomplish its strategic plan;
- How well the strategic plan targets resources to areas that most impact student learning;
- Information contained in the school’s own self-evaluation; and
- The school’s status in relation to the expectations of institutional or governing authorities.
The evaluation team will then make recommendations to WASC on the level of accreditation the school should receive.
What is an accreditation status?
WASC may grant any one of three levels of accreditation to schools: full accreditation, probationary accreditation, or no accreditation.
Full accreditation is usually good for six years and is typically awarded when a school successfully demonstrates that it has the capacity, commitment, and competence to support high-quality student learning and ongoing school improvement. Full accreditation is generally supported by a positive report and recommendation from the evaluation team WASC sent to assess the school.
Depending upon how well the evaluation team feels the school is executing its strategic plan, WASC may recommend a:
- Six-year accreditation status w/ a mid-cycle progress report;
- Six-year accreditation status w/ a mid-cycle progress report + 1-day visit; or
- Six-year accreditation status w/ a mid-cycle progress report + 2-day visit.
Probationary accreditation status may be granted for either one or two years and is typically assigned to schools when there is “compelling evidence” that the school is deviating significantly from one or more areas of its strategic plan. Probationary accreditation is generally accompanied by a lukewarm report and recommendation from the evaluation team WASC sent to assess the school.
Depending upon how the evaluation team feels the school is executing its strategic plan, WASC may recommend:
- Two-year probationary accreditation status w/ an in-depth progress report + 2-day visit; or
- One-year probationary accreditation status w/ an in-depth progress report +1-day visit.
WASC may withhold accreditation, which may leads to a loss of accreditation or no accreditation, there is “compelling evidence” that the school has failed to meet one or more WASC-approved criteria and deviates significantly in critical areas of its strategic plan so as to negatively “impact student learning and well-being, the school’s program, and supporting operations.”
What is Leigh High School’s current WASC accreditation status?
Two-year probationary accreditation status w/ an in-depth progress report +2-day visit. Leigh High School has been operating under this same accreditation status since 2014.
Where is Leigh High School currently at in the WASC accreditation process?
At the end of June 2016, WASC extended Leigh's current probationary status for another year. This will provide Leigh with additional time to complete its action plan and return to a standard, six-year accreditation cycle.
A new WASC evaluation team will conduct a two-day visit of Leigh in the spring of 2017 to evaluate the school’s progress on its action plan.
That date will be chosen by the district.
Several months earlier, a WASC evaluation team concluded a two-day visit to Leigh High School on Tuesday, March 22. On that date, the Leigh High School community was provided with an initial assessment of the progress it has made in executing its strategic plan.
The evaluation team commended Leigh High School for achieving growth in the following areas over the last two years:
- Improved administrative structure
- Improved communication with the community, staff, district, and school board
- Increased support services for students
- A supportive parent community
The WASC evaluation team also recommended that Leigh focus on the following areas in order to receive full accreditation:
- Regular assessment of student performance on school wide learning outcomes
- Commitment across the teacher and parent community to use SchoolLoop on a regular basis
- Increased communication with students whose first language is not English, Latino students, students with disabilities, and socioeconomically disadvantaged students and the adoption of strategies to close the achievement gap for these groups
- Increasing college and career readiness of all our students
- Collaborative practices around curriculum and assessment
The evaluation team must now file a final report and provide WASC with a recommendation on Leigh High School’s accreditation status. WASC will then notify Leigh High School of its accreditation status in May 2016.
What accreditation status is Leigh High School likely to wind up with?
One-year probationary accreditation status w/ an in-depth progress report +1-day visit
What happens if after another year of probationary accreditation in 2016-17 the WASC evaluation team determines that Leigh High School has not made adequate progress again?
If the WASC evaluation team determines in the spring of 2017 that Leigh High School has made insufficient progress towards the goals stated above, the team could recommend to WASC that accreditation be withheld. If accreditation is withheld, Leigh High School would have to begin the process of reapplying for accreditation. The graduating class of 2017 would not be affected during this reapplication period.