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?
We are still considered Probationary until the WASC Commission votes on the Visiting Teams recommendation. As mentioned in a previous email, our WASC Chair, Mark Campbell, was able to get our report onto the April agenda. We expect to hear from the commission mid-May.
Where is Leigh High School currently, in the WASC accreditation process?
At the end of June 2016, WASC extended Leigh's current probationary status for another year. In 2017, a new WASC evaluation team conducted a two-day visit on March 27th and 28th.
The evaluation team commended Leigh High School for achieving growth in many areas over the last seven months:
- Improved administrative structure
- Improved communication with the community, staff, district, and school board
- Increased support services for students
- A supportive parent community
- A positive school climate and improved culture
- Increased student voice
- Committed and passionate staff
- Consistent feedback on the work we have been doing and the work that still needs to be done.
The WASC evaluation team also recommended that Leigh focus on the following areas in order to receive full accreditation:
Regular assessment of student performance and the use of that data to drive instruction
Collaborative practices around curriculum and assessment
Continue to focus on Leigh's under-represented groups
What accreditation status is Leigh High School likely to wind up with?
We are hoping to go back on the 6-year cycle which would put our next full visit in the year 2020. We could get either a mid-cycle visit before that or receive a clear until then.
Leigh High School Self-Study Reports
For more information regarding WASC, please visit their website