How We Support and Advance the Learning of Our Students

February 07, 2018

In a moment of public vulnerability at the Room Parents meeting last week, I disclosed my newfound infatuation with the accreditation process organized by the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS).

I confessed that in the previous ten accreditations I have been involved with as a teacher, administrator, accreditation team member, and team chair, I always approached the process professionally and dutifully, but not with the same level of enthusiastic appreciation I now feel for how this highly reflective process can rejuvenate and focus a school. As San Francisco Day School continues to prepare for our own accreditation, I wanted to share with you more detail regarding our own process and progress.

While an accreditation serves to validate the proficiency of a school based on a set of standards, in 2013-14 CAIS revamped their criteria and launched a portal in order to guide schools through a deeply thoughtful process designed to shape and inform strategic directions. Their tool captures the systemic complexity of schools, which I find fascinating, and emphasizes the importance of mission alignment and ongoing improvement of practice, which is the hallmark of a highly effective school. 

The CAIS accreditation instrument is organized into six sections:

  • School Mission: This section examines the mission statement as an expression of institutional purpose and core values.
  • Educational Program: This section focuses on teaching and learning with an emphasis on the curricular program, the student learning experience, faculty and pedagogy, and climate and community.
  • Financial Sustainability: This section analyzes data and information pertaining to enrollment, budgets, and advancement.
  • Operations: This section studies our school’s human resource considerations, the upkeep and management of the facility, and issues associated with health, safety, and wellness.
  • Institutional Stewardship and Leadership: This section examines governance, highlighting the role and work of the board and administration, focusing on how the school assesses, plans, and innovates.  Of note is the fact that the accreditation criteria presumes that schools are consistently innovating.
  • Institutional Improvement and Sustainability: This final section reviews how a school gathers and analyzes information to inform decision making, institutional initiatives, and strategic change. As part of our self-study report, we will also compile a data dashboard which synthesizes the financial and demographic profile of the school. In all, the self-study highlights all of the things we do to support and advance the learning of our students.

At SF Day, we are fortunate to have a truly engaged community, including a committed and dedicated faculty. Our faculty has already devoted many hours to our self-study and I would like to take a moment to thank all those who have taken on leadership roles throughout this process. Dr. Sokolov is chairing the steering committee coordinating the work. Thanks also go to Lauren Becker, Michael Duryee-Browner, Sylvia Rodriguez Douglass, Amanda Elliston, Andrea Green, Megan Buttery Green, and Loren Moye for stepping forward and helping to lead. In addition, Marcella Anwandter, Cathy Aragon, Melissa Brown, Homa Hanjani, Michelle Phillips, Steve Roberts, Leah Shoaff, Jason Tognetti, Susan Wayland, Christine Wong (board member), and Erin Wright are guiding the information gathering that will inform the various chapters of the report. 

We will be engaging parents and guardians in the self-study during upcoming class coffees and parent/guardian meetings. Please monitor The Week Ahead email for announcements of those dates. We are looking forward to your input and insights.

This year, we have focused the professional development days and faculty meetings on the self-study. We will be writing the initial draft of the complete report over the summer, and editing the final report during the fall. A visiting team of peer educators will be on campus for three days this time next year. They will submit a report to CAIS, which will be reviewed during the summer of 2019.

CAIS Heads of School are expected to chair or serve on accreditation teams two out of every three years. Susan Wayland and Ruth Bissell have just returned from accreditation visits themselves. I have, as they did, thoroughly enjoyed the work and learned a tremendous amount from the experience. In addition to improving our familiarity with the tool and the process, there is nothing like looking closely at other schools to broaden your understanding of all schools, which is an excellent way to know and appreciate your own school.