There’s often debate in the world of accreditation about which is more valuable – the preparation of the Internal Evaluation Report or the review by the Visiting Committee. I like to think this way – both are important, much the same way that you clean your house, but you clean it better when company is coming. (And when they come for the weekend? You clean your closets too!)
But both are only important if there are two key ingredients – good people engaged in good conversations.
Now we like to say that CAIS is in the business of asking good questions – be it for research, PD or accreditation. So our mission of whole school improvement is best achieved when we ask good questions both at the internal and on-site stages of the process. We have launched our new Accreditation Guidelines, and although there are fewer questions, we believe they are the better ones for schools with a true passion for learning in all areas of program and operations. Our schools are so busy, that this process forces everyone to stop and think about what is done well and what can be improved.
Last week at West Point Grey Academy, Sarah Fast lead the Internal Evaluation review that included a thoroughly reflective process that left no stone unturned. Before the team even arrived, she reported that the process was highly valuable. (I have two words for that – Of course!)
The second value occurs during the visit. Val Pighin, our Accreditation Coordinator, works incredibly hard to find the best Visiting Committee members, and by best we mean people from similar schools who have the expertise and experience to really challenge the school by asking great questions. In the case of the visit to WPGA, the group was stellar. The Head of school, Tam Matthews, wrote this: “School, Board and especially the teachers were/are very positive on CAIS Accred.” That unsolicited feedback is proof positive about the benefits of a team from across Canada spending four days at the school engaged in great conversations.
But then this week, I was moved again by the email from the Chair of the Visiting Committee that sparked a series of additional reflections. Rodger Wright wrote:
“It was an honour and a delight to be in your orbit over the last few days and I can’t thank you enough for parking your own lives, taking this job so seriously, and doing it so conscientiously. I hope we added a little value to an awesome school and came away with the odd gem to apply to our awesome schools. I learned a lot from you guys and I’m so happy our paths crossed at WPGA.”
So I smile thinking about this image of goodness spreading across Canada. Crazy but true! For not only does West Point Grey Academy benefit, but when the Visiting Committee members return to their schools, tired but full of energy and ideas, they can apply their learning to their schools.
That kind of national impact on schools is what I call powerful.