It has become a joke in our office that everything we do is either “draft” or a “test” or a “pilot project.” We take our commitment to continuous improvement seriously, and we like taking risks. Learning and leadership is CAIS’ vision, and it is really becoming part of our culture. We joke that if you don’t like something, then you’re in luck! – it was only a pilot. (But then we work super hard to get it right the next time.) And if you do like something, then we want to hear about that feedback too because, after all, it was only a pilot project. So around here, we evaluate everything.
So it will come as no surprise that on the accreditation review of Rothesay Netherwood School (RNS), we tried something new.
Here’s part of the background motivation. I always feel slightly uneasy about the need with an accreditation process to focus on what’s wrong with the school. Of course our CAIS schools share a burning desire to improve, and the only way to improve is to question what is working and what is not necessarily working as well as it could. But after spending four days immersed in the life of the school, observing classes and programs and meeting staff, parents, alumni, Board, and students, the Visiting Committee tends to fall in love with the place.
All CAIS Schools are full of passionate learners, and I feel so fortunate to witness, first-hand, Canada’s best independent schools. So when it comes time to writing a Visiting Committee Report, I can see that the team can struggle with suggesting improvements, so we all have to be reminded that the ultimate goal is to improve – we go through the process to make the good school that we loveeven better.
The other inspiration for change came from a workshop I attended with other Accreditation Directors. Our focus was on how to improve the process for schools and a great speaker, Fred Dust, lead the discussion on change (Fred will be presenting at next year’s CAIS Conference for Heads, Chairs and Business Officers in Toronto).
So here’s the new idea. As you know, accreditation is a snapshot of a moving target, and the Visiting Committee writes a report based on three things: what they read in the Internal Evaluation Report, and on what they see and hear at the school at time of the visit. In our workshop, we brainstormed how we could approach accreditation differently. There will be other ideas that we develop in the coming years, but for now, I am focused on the fact that even with Commendations in our Visiting Committee Reports, we don’t quite capture all that is great about a school. I wanted to improve this.
I firmly believe that accreditation in Canada is about school improvement, but it is also an opportunity to celebrate what is done really well in our CAIS schools.
So I hired a photographer to do a some photo-journalism during the RNS review, and I put together a collection of what we saw and heard on one of the days of the review.
Enjoy the RNS Accreditation slideshow: “Snapshot” (and if you don’t like it, well, it is just a pilot project!)