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NEASC team completes analysis of Agawam High School

Date: 11/4/2008

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

AGAWAM Last week, a 16-member visiting team from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) spent four days evaluating Agawam High School as part of the school's 10-year accreditation review.

Agawam High School teachers Linda Sasso and Elizabeth Marble, co-chairs of the school's Accreditation Committee, told Reminder Publications that they've been prepping for the visit for the past two years.

Sasso noted that the entire staff has been involved in a two-year self-study to determine strengths, weaknesses, standards and goals within the NEASC's seven areas of evaluation: Mission and Expectation for Student Learning, Curriculum, Instruction, Assessment of Student Learning, Community Resources, School Community Profile and Leadership.

"We had to establish some common goals and work toward those goals," Sasso explained. "[There was] a lot of dialogue and sharing of methodology [within this two-year process]. Teaching tends to be very isolating because it's just you with 25 teenagers and it [the self-study] forces you outside of your comfort zone and forces you to share and reflect and improve what you do [as educators] for young people."

Sasso explained that the committee had to determine expectations and also develop a four-point school-wide rubric to measure the student achievement relative to those objectives. She noted that one expectation was for the students to "communicate effectively through writing" as measured by the four-point rubric and then a 16-point scale to determine a letter grade.

"The [self-study] process has made [the staff] come together as an entity," Marble said. "[It has] given us focus as a team. It has been an enlightening experience for some teachers who've never been in the process before."

Brian Beck, principal of Mohawk Trail Regional High School in Shelburne Falls, also vice chair of the NEASC visitation team, explained that the team spent Oct. 26 through 29 speaking to teachers and staff, administrators, students and parents in order to gain a complete perspective of all those involved with the academic institution. He noted that the team will be working to draft a comprehensive report of their findings.

"We give the school commendations and recommendations regarding improvements [within the report]," Beck said. "The process provides a framework to make improvements in particular areas."

Agawam High School principal Steven Lemanski said, "We expect to fare well in many areas and will need to improve in others. We look forward to the opportunity to accept the critique of the team and continue to make positive changes for our school community as well as for the town of Agawam."

Marble explained that receiving accreditation from the NEASC is important for those students seeking higher education. She added that many colleges look to see if a high school is accredited prior to determining a student's enrollment.

She noted that Agawam High School should have the final draft of the accreditation report by next spring and then a new Accreditation Committee will be formed to work toward the next NEASC 10-year accreditation.