In previous years, Henry S. Evans received its accreditation from NCA (North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement). Now we will be receiving our accreditation through AdvancED. In preparation for a visit from the AdvanED officials, the administration, teachers, parents and students have put together our School Improvement Plan (SIP) and submitted a report to AdvancED Team called the Standards Assessment Report (SAR).
NCA CASI History
Founded in 1895, the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement (NCA CASI) is a non-governmental, voluntary organization that accredits 8,500 public and private schools and districts. One of six regional accrediting organizations, NCA CASI accredits schools and districts in 19 states, the Navajo Nation, and the Department of Defense Dependents' Schools worldwide. For over 100 years, NCA CASI's focus has been to advance the quality of education.
NCA CASI accredits a range of schools from pre-kindergarten through post-secondary, including: early childhood, elementary, middle, secondary, adult/vocational, college preparatory, special purpose, unit (K-12), and non-degree granting post-secondary schools.
Through accreditation and related services, NCA CASI continuously improves the quality of education and challenges education entities to prepare each and every learner for success. Overview The North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement has gone through at least six distinct transitions in its 100 year history.
From 1895 to 1904, the focus was on resolving areas of disagreement among educators through discussion and scholarly seminars. From 1905 -1945, the focus was on verifying that students earned credit -- based on seat time -- for admission to a university. From 1945 to the mid-1960's, with the large increase of students (baby boomers), the focus was on inputs. NCA monitored resources such as qualified staff, facilities, science labs, libraries, number of books per student, and teacher-pupil ratio. In the time frame from 1965 to 1980, the focus was on inputs and the process of school improvement. During the 1980's and 1990's, NCA began to focus on outcomes of student learning. As we look to the 21st century NCA wants to know, "Is each student prepared to be successful in his/her next educational or career transition?" Transitions, NCA CASI's exemplary recognition, brings accountability to the individual student level through credentialing individuals.
NCA CASI Past and Current Issues Affecting the Organization Early Issues Regarding Accreditation and Membership Changes
From 1895-1904 the regional accrediting associations attempted to resolve five major areas of confusion and disagreement among high schools and colleges. The areas of confusion concerned:
College admission requirements. The allotment of time to subject matter fields in secondary schools. The function and scope of the high school. Preparation of students for college. The competition for college students.
The early years (1905-1945) appear to have centered on eloquent debates about standards and an expectation that schools would meet them. As the baby boomers reached school age, great emphasis was placed on resources (human and material) and inputs. Rigor and monitoring were the order of the day. In the late 1960's, three things happened to change NCA's outlook on accreditation. First, the secondary school membership topped out at about 3,900. This represented 50% of the secondary schools and about 80% of the student population in secondary schools. Secondly, we instituted the once-in-seven-year requirement for on-site school evaluation. The third change was extending accreditation to other categories of schools so that in the next seven years (1968-1975) we had an additional six categories of schools: middle level, adult-vocational, college preparatory, elementary, optional-special function and unit schools.
The increase in membership in these categories has been slow over time, particularly at the elementary level. However, the membership doubled from 1968 to 1996. Much of the new membership occurred from 1986 to 1996 (2,000 additional members) -- precisely during the time when our sponsoring agency support diminished. In 2002, for the first time, elementary membership exceeded secondary membership.
Current Forces That Impact Our Future
As we look to our future, we challenge our member schools to be ready for all learners and to press them to excellence. However, a number of issues will impact our vision. State sponsorships (monetary allocations) are diminishing and will continue to do so. By 2001, we had fewer than ten sponsorships as we once knew them. Because state offices need additional resources as a result of diminishing sponsorship support, they feel a real pressure to increase membership and to seek other sources of service revenue. The state offices also feel the need to extend our vision and mission to more schools, particularly at the elementary level. We have opted to be an inclusionary membership organization. Competitive entities are challenging our once hallowed ground of accreditation, e.g., state departments and other accrediting organizations. Pressure on schools and districts to meet standards, goals, and expectations for the state, local boards and the business community is growing. There is increasing duplication of effort in areas such as reports and team visits. Many state departments have moved from monitoring activities to facilitating, assisting, and attempting to provide service to schools. The business community presses for graduates to be competitive internationally. There is a ground swell for national goals and a common set of learner outcomes. Accountability has gained national attention with the implementation of HR1 -- the No Child Left Behind Act. Education is being forced into a competitive status -- vouchers, charter schools, and the privatization of education are evidence of this. Public schools are expected to educate all students and show results. Our shift from an input-process model to documenting student growth changed state committee responsibilities. It was easier for the state office to manage the once-in-seven-year cycle using the 5th or 6th edition of the Evaluative Criteria, which mirrored our standards. Thus NCA COS could verify that the visiting teams validated our membership standards. Schools need help in a results-driven evaluation system. Even with just a process model, they need assistance with best practices. There has been and will be a significant turnover of administrators and teachers, causing us to look for a new core of support for NCA peer review teams and team chairs. These new professionals may not be as familiar with NCA as were their predecessors. Approximately 35% of our schools have made the shift to the improvement model focusing on student performance. The staff development demands on our organization are massive; we must provide training for team chairs, team members, steering committees, and reviewers. We need to utilize the latest technology to accomplish this. These combined factors inhibit our ability to monitor compliance with our standards.
History of NCA CASI's Organizational Structure From 1895 to 1965, NCA's two commissions had a part-time treasurer, a part-time executive secretary for each commission, and a rather informal organization. The state committee structure of the Commission on Schools (COS) developed from about 1904 to 1920. These very small committees representing secondary schools met once or twice a year in their states and then in Chicago with the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education (CIHE) to accredit schools. In 1962 COS hired its first full-time executive director, and we were housed with the CIHE in Chicago. By 1978 we had our fourth executive director, Dr. Kenneth Gose, and had moved to Boulder, Colorado, with a portion of the higher education staff. CIHE moved back to Chicago in 1980, but the Commission on Schools remained in Boulder with a total of about six staff. COS moved to Arizona State University, Tempe, in 1989. Throughout our history there has been a board of control (previously called the Executive Board, now called the Board of Trustees) for each commission and a board of directors for the association (composed of the executive boards of each commission). In December of 2000 the CIHE and COS each became incorporated and changed their names to Higher Learning Commission and The Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement, respectively.
The COS state committees have functioned with a sponsoring agency since 1904. That sponsorship was provided by a state department or a university. Almost without exception, the Commission did not pay for professional staff in the state offices until the late 1980's, although some support staff salary contributions occurred during the mid-1970's. The sponsoring agency provided sponsorship as part of its service mission to the schools in its state. Beginning with Wisconsin in 1980 and Indiana and Michigan in 1992, sponsorship began to decline and the responsibility for resources and state budgets began to shift to the Commission.
While CASI money had been used for additional support staff since the middle 1970's, the loss of sponsorship in the late 1980's caused Commission money to be used for professional staff. Consequently, more of the funding burden shifted to the membership through dues and fees. How much will schools be willing to pay for accreditation? Will they be interested in paying for quality facilitation of school improvement efforts that focus on improving student performance? NCA CASI Major Initiatives -- 1995-2002.
Initiative 1: Strategic Plan
In 1994, the Commission finalized the major elements of its strategic plan for 1995-2000. The Executive Board and the state office personnel worked together over a two-year period to develop a plan designed to maintain NCA COS leadership in the field of accreditation.
Initiative 2: Standards Revision
In the early 1990's a number of our colleagues from member schools, state departments, and universities suggested that our standards - particularly those related to staffing patterns - needed to be more flexible to address the ever-changing needs of students and to stimulate necessary changes in schools for the 21st Century. In 1996, the Commission approved the new standards, which had been three years in the revision process. The NCA Standard:
Each member school shall maximize the proportion of its promoted or graduated students who are self-directed learners and are prepared to make successful transitions from school-to-school or school-to-career.
In 1996 the NCA standard was adopted as a single overriding commitment to excellence. The standard could be achieved through a number of accreditation endorsements: School Improvement Endorsement, Outcomes Endorsement, and Transitions Endorsement. Membership and improvement criteria in five categories specified those policies, procedures, and resources needed by a school to qualify for membership and to initiate and sustain an improvement process. The categories were: School Improvement Plan Information System Process of Schooling Vision, Leadership-Governance, and School Community Resources and Allocation
After achieving initial membership, a school had to meet the intent of the improvement criteria, engage in a continuous improvement cycle, and declare its intent to meet the standard by pursuing one of the three endorsements. In addition, a district endorsement became available in 2001. The School Improvement Endorsements were sun-setted in 2002, and Performance Accreditation was launched in 2001-2002. Performance Accreditation included an exemplary recognition called Transitions.
Initiative 3: Transitions Pilot
With the adoption of the NCA Standard and Criteria for accreditation at the 1996 Annual Meeting, the Commission introduced a new accreditation endorsement - the Transitions Endorsement. This endorsement was a school improvement model that focuses on individual accountability and on preparing students to be successful in moving from school-to-school and ultimately into the world-of-work.
The Transitions Endorsement was designed to: Involve all levels of schooling in a district. Engage each student in a rigorous program of academic pursuits. Help students develop skills that are necessary to enter the work force. Align the student's educational program with life interests. Create a comprehensive student information system at each level of schooling. Foster intensive parental and community involvement in the schooling process. Enhance the counseling/mentoring/coaching relationship with each student. Provide extended time for students to gain adequate preparation commensurate with their life choices. Document student progress using varied but widely respected assessment measures.
In September 1997, schools in 12 states began piloting the endorsement. The states involved included Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. In 2000, the designation of "endorsement" was discontinued. The first Transitions schools were accredited at the Annual Meeting in 2001. There were 55. An additional 42 schools were recognized as Transitions schools in 2002.
Initiative 4: Center for Documenting Student Success
Begun in 1994, the purpose of the Center for Documenting Student Success was to provide school improvement training, technical assistance, and materials to assist our member schools as they pursued improved student performance. In 2000-2001 the Center conducted 18 regional workshops and trained 716 Educators in school improvement.
By the spring of 2002 CASI had developed a suite of three software packages (Data Analysis, Developing the School Profile & Team Chair) designed to assist schools in the school improvement process. Originally, schools purchased over 1500 copies, and later the software was provided free to NCA members.
In 1998, the first Ambassadors - now known as Field Consultants -- were trained as school improvement resource specialists. To date, close to 200 Field Consultants have been certified.
Initiative 5: Collaborative Efforts
The North Central Association Commission on Schools, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and the Center for Leadership in School Reform (CLSR) collaborated on a project designed to accelerate the rate of improvement in schools and to focus the accreditation process more clearly on quality and results. The Standard Bearer's Project also provided venues to: Focus attention on the capacity of school districts to sustain the necessary changes in the operation of schools and classrooms that will help create a results-focused, quality-driven culture. Accredit school districts as well as individual schools within districts. Helps schools be quality focused and results-oriented. Foster continuous improvement and data-based decision making in schools and school districts.
Initiative 6: State Office Stability
NCA has a long tradition of cooperation and collaboration with a sponsor in each of our state offices. In years past, the sponsoring agency (either a university or a state department of education) typically contributed to NCA activities through provision of FTE and salaries for state directors and support staff, facilities, operations, and travel. Over time, as resources became more scarce, sponsorship contributions declined by over a million dollars. As sponsorship declined, much more commission time was devoted to hiring and supervising personnel.
Initiative 7: CITA
Early in the 1990's NCA joined with the other regional accrediting associations in establishing the International Council of School Accreditation Commissions, Inc. (ICSAC). In 1995, ICSAC incorporated the Commission on International and Trans-Regional Accreditation (CITA) to accredit corporate groups of schools and education providers that crossed regional boundaries or were located outside the United States. CITA accredits distance education, supplementary education, national, international and trans-regional (comprehensive) schools. CITA has been the answer to the expanding demand for accreditation of private, for-profit schools and unique delivery models of education here and abroad.
In 2002, CITA became the alliance of seven accrediting commissions, The National Council for Private School Accreditation (NCPSA) and the National Study of School Evaluation (NSSE). The CITA mission was to be the global leader in the education community that provides systems of accreditation to promote quality schools and continuous improvement, which enhances student success.
NCA CASI took over the management of CITA in 2000 and was paid an annual management fee per school by the regional commissions. Dr. Ken Gose, the executive director of NCA CASI, became the executive director of CITA.
In 2002, the regional commissions approved CITA accreditation for all of their member schools. CITA members accredited 32,500 schools in 125 countries. One million teachers teach 20 million students in CITA accredited schools.
As part of the management, NCA CASI developed and maintained the Web-based International Registry of Accredited Schools and the CITA Web site. NCA CASI also developed an electronic customer maintenance system for CITA.
Involvement in CITA increased the NCA membership by 251 and contributed over $125,000 in additional dues. Membership expanded in the special purpose category. NCA began international work through CITA. In 2002, NCA managed the accreditation for schools in Egypt, Germany, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, China and Jordan. In addition, NCA representatives presented at two private education conferences in China.
CITA projects are the Council for the Recognition of Education Development (CORED), the International Academy of Educational Accreditors, and the Quadrennial International Conferences for Peace and Justice through Education.
Initiative 8: Co-Accreditation Agreements
In 1997 NCA entered into its first co-accreditation agreement with National Lutheran School Accreditation-Missouri Synod. Co-accreditation involves examination of the standards and protocols of other accrediting agencies and accepting their protocols when they met the NCA Standards. Today, NCA has co-accreditation agreements with NLSA-Missouri Synod, the Independent Schools Association of the Central States (ISACS), and the Association of Christian Schools International.
The Major Initiatives and other Commission activities led to involvement in a number of Commission Projects from 1997-2002. Projects of the Commission on Schools Project: Annual Accountability System
In 1997 the Commission on Schools contracted with the McKenzie Group, Inc. and Mathtech (both Washington, D.C.-based firms) for the design and development of an on-line, automated annual accountability system. The Annual Accountability System provided comprehensive information on the academic performance in member schools based on a set of common indicators. It was the pioneer work in the development of NCA CASI Web-based data repository.
Project: Preparing School Improvement Specialists
NCA CASI collaborated with the Department of Educational Administration at the University of Nebraska Lincoln to develop a graduate level program to prepare school improvement specialists.
Four courses were developed (12 semester hours) and offered via distance education. Students successfully completing the course sequence are designated and credentialed as NCA school improvement specialists. The first class of school improvement specialists completed the course sequence in 2002.
Major benefits of this program include the following: It provides districts with trained school improvement specialists. It increases the supply of educators who are fully knowledgeable about the NCA improvement process. It enables teachers who work full time or live in remote areas to begin graduate study in a distance learning environment that is more compatible with their life styles.
NCA COS began organizing states into teams in 1997. The intent was to encourage and provide avenues for sharing resources across state boundaries. The resources included sharing support staff, administrative staff expertise and financial resources. Over the next five years, the COSINS groups evolved into teams, and eventually there were three teams: The West Team, the Central Team and the East Team.
NCA and the 21st Century
In late 2000, the Commission incorporated separately from the higher education commission and changed its name to the Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. CASI then began a several year strategic planning process to position itself for the demands of the 21st century. The results of that process are included in the NCA CASI strategic plan.
In April 2006, NCA CASI, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement (SACS CASI), and National Study of School Evaluation (NSSE) came together to form one strong unified organization dedicated to education quality. That unified organization, known as AdvancED , creates the world's largest education community, representing over 23,000 public and private schools, 6,000 school districts, 18,000 volunteers in 30 states and 65 countries and serving nearly 15 million students.
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