Cazenovia High School is preparing to add another line to their long list of accolades and accomplishments. Administrators and faculty have recently begun to work towards earning accreditation from the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.
Over the next year, the current state of the school will be evaluated by students, staff and parents. An updated mission statement will be fashioned, and a seven-year strategic plan will be established.
“Accreditation is a means of showing confidence in a school’s performance. We know we are an exceptional school, but now we will have the evidence to back up that claim, and continue to earn this title,” said Cazenovia High School Vice Principal Susan Vickers, one of the internal coordinators of the project. “The intent throughout the process is more than to focus on shortcomings; the chief goal is to seek remedies for inadequacies and to identify and nurture good practices. As our motto reads, we have a commitment to excellence at Cazenovia.”
First established in 1887, the Middle States Association is the oldest of the six regional accrediting agencies in the United States. MSA offers educational institutions assistance in improving their inner-workings and performance, by evaluating the school’s effectiveness in meeting standards set forth by organization, as well as the school staff and community members. The non-profit organization has worked with schools across the east coast, as well as institutions in Canada, Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
The process, which Cazenovia High School hopes to have completed by the spring of 2013, aims to assist the institution in crafting an updated mission statement, while improving the performance and internal relationships between staff, students and parents.
MSA measures schools seeking accreditation against 12 standards: Understanding of the institution’s own philosophy/mission statement, governance and leadership, school improvement planning, finances, facilities, school climate and organization, health and safety, educational programming, assessment and evidence of student learning, student services, student life and student activities as well as information resources and technology.
Cazenovia High School students recently completed surveys on Nov. 21 and 22, rating how well they thought the school currently meets the 12 standards. Also on Nov. 21, high school faculty completed the survey, evaluating their effectiveness and the school’s overall condition.
The other assessments MSA needs in order to move forward, are to be completed by parents of high school students. Parents can complete the online survey by accessing it on the schools’ website, caz.cnyric.org, by Nov. 28.
“The outcome of our self-study will provide concrete reference points that will guide us into the future,” said Eric Jerbek, one of the project’s internal coordinators and physics teacher at the high school. “The demands on students in our current world are complex, and we need to provide accurate on task evaluation programs to meet these needs.”
Following completion of the three surveys and assessing the current state of the school, representatives from MSA will visit Cazenovia High School and conduct their own study, validating the evaluations.
More than 70 educators at the high school have been divided into 12 groups, each focused on one standard, working towards the enhancement of their division and the school as a whole. At the end of the process, before accreditation is granted, the MSA validation team will visit Cazenovia High School again to complete their final audit.
In order to earn, and maintain accreditation, the school must pay MSA an initial fee of $500 for the preparatory evaluation, as well as a yearly due of about $860 dollars. The funds are currently available, within the high school’s budget designated for “fees and dues.” Hosting the validation team will cost the school $5,000, which is also covered in their budget under the “outside contractor” line. The team returns every five years to reevaluate the state of the school.
By seeking accreditation from MSA, Cazenovia High School will set itself further apart from other educational institutions in the state. Currently in New York state, 296 high schools have earned accreditation. In the Syracuse area, Cazenovia High School is one of just 11 accredited schools.
For more information on the high school’s progress in receiving accreditation, access their website, caz.cnyric.org or call 655-1314. To learn more about Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, visit the organization online at middlestates.org or call (215) 662-5600.
Pierce Smith is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at 434-8889 ext. 338 or firstname.lastname@example.org.