For any educational institution, getting and maintaining accreditation is important because it signifies that the school has met certain quality standards and, in turn, will provide students with quality education.
The New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) is an independent, non-profit organization that accredits schools across New England, as well as other states and countries around the globe. NEASC accreditation is not easy to achieve, and it requires schools to meet a set of rigorous standards to demonstrate their commitment to educational excellence.
At Eduplanet21, we are dedicated to supporting and assisting our schools as they achieve this accreditation. While there are many standards that an organization must adhere to in order to achieve accreditation, this blog will focus on just a few ways that a Curriculum Management Platform can help.
Standard 1 of the 2020 Standards for Accreditation focuses on the institution's learning culture. When talking about culture, a big part of what NEASC refers to is the school's values: what they believe about learning and how those belief statements and a school's Vision of a Graduate drive student learning, staff development, and support strategies.
In addition, those beliefs and the Vision of a Graduate must effectively drive curriculum, instruction, and assessment in every classroom across the organization. Easier said than done!
While developing belief statements (or philosophies) can be challenging, they serve as a foundation for future curriculum development. Beliefs can (and should) be generalized to the organization, but more and more, I am seeing them developed subject-specifically as well.
The thing is, it's very easy for curriculum writing to become a "Wild West," in which individual teachers are making decisions based on their own biases and beliefs - it's natural, and the last thing you want to do is take away their autonomy.
What we do want is one document that we can always refer back to - one that lists core, non-negotiable beliefs about education (and maybe more specifically, a subject area) so that when disagreements happen, there is always something to fall back to.
I also LOVE the development of a Vision of a Graduate! Now we're going beyond content area knowledge; we're asking ourselves what interdisciplinary skills and dispositions students will need to possess when they leave our doors. This exercise often engages the wider community - including business owners, parents, the school board, etc.
Not only can you develop your Vision of a Graduate in Eduplanet21, but organizations can also align to specific elements of that vision within their courses and units of study to determine where you are actually focusing on those skills and dispositions across the organization.
You can even get as granular as to say which assessments and learning activities focus on those dispositions and how. As a school leader, imagine having the confidence that you have that information available at the drop of a hat when under review for accreditation!
It's also important to mention an organization's responsibility to communicate its values and vision with the broader school community. Transparency is a hot-button topic, and in the world of education, it's heading toward curriculum transparency.
Eduplanet21's newest product, the Curriculum Blueprint, delivers a clean, easy-to-use visual of a school/district's curriculum - including belief statements (generally and subject-specific) and the Vision of a Graduate. It also allows you to dive deeper into the written curriculum, displaying each subject area and the courses taught in each grade level.
School communities have received raving reviews from School Boards and parents after launching their Curriculum Blueprint, and we never get tired of hearing it!
Standard 2 of the NEASC accreditation standards focuses more specifically on student learning. I can't tell you how many schools have come to me and said something along the lines of "I'm embarrassed even to say this, but we don't have a written curriculum."
Of course, teachers have lesson plans, and there is still learning happening - but not having a written curriculum in place can be detrimental to an organization and learners.
When there is no written curriculum, there are no ensured learning experiences. My daughter is going into second grade. If her school district didn't have a written curriculum in place, the learning that she experiences would very heavily depend on who she has as a teacher. If we can't even ensure our students in the same grade are focused on the same goals throughout the year, how can we be effective as an organization?
NEASC Standard 2.2a says, "There is a written curriculum in a consistent format for all courses in all departments."
Enter Eduplanet21. With Course Planner and Unit Planner, schools can define their template or use one of our recommended frameworks, like Understanding by DesignⓇ. Teachers and leaders will align to state and national goals as they see fit, define what they want students to know and be able to do, build assessments, and engaging learning activities - all in one easily searchable location.
Eduplanet21 also offers complete visibility, so now, not only can we be consistent within our department or grade level but also across subjects (horizontally) and grades (vertically). Our team will work with school leaders to transition teachers from their current process to Eduplanet21's innovative, comprehensive Curriculum Management Suite, ensuring you are set up for success moving forward.
Again, after you've developed and vetted your curriculum, the Curriculum Blueprint makes it easy to share with a click of a button (minus assessments and learning activities) to the wider school community!
Standard 5 of the NEASC standards refers to Learning Resources. In particular, standard 5.2 focuses on schools providing dedicated time and financial resources to facilitate research-based instruction, professional growth, and developing and improving school programs and services. This specifically refers to:
Not only does having your curriculum in a curriculum management software like Eduplanet21 help you to more easily facilitate collaborative curriculum revision, but we also offer access to online professional learning institutes on topics including but not limited to:
These institutes are asynchronous, and teachers can move through them at their own pace. Many schools I work with will also offer these in a blended format for increased collaboration.
Regardless of your rollout plan, teachers have the opportunity to learn about a topic or strategy to help them improve their curriculum on an ongoing basis and then immediately apply that learning to their written documents, all within the same platform. This, coupled with time dedicated to curriculum improvement and revision as a team, can be an excellent strategy for schoolwide professional learning days.
Eduplanet21 offers a wide range of resources and curriculum management tools to support schools in meeting the rigorous standards set by NEASC for accreditation.
With Eduplanet21, schools can feel confident that they have a tool to aid in their ability to meet NEASC standards alignment and provide their students with a quality education.
Reach out today to speak with an Eduplanet21 customer service representative to learn more.
Kelsey is Eduplanet21's Manager of Customer Success. She and her team work with our customers from the time they come on board to make sure they have a successful onboarding and feel comfortable using Eduplanet21 as they move ahead with their work.
Fun Fact: Kelsey co-founded 2 Seconds or Less, a non-profit organization dedicated to ending childhood malnutrition by providing sustainable solutions to hunger in Zimbabwe, Africa.