“Grayslake should be honored to have a Christian school of this caliber in their community.” – Mrs. Becky Gardner, Accreditation Team Chairperson, Superintendent of Peoria Christian School.
On October 24, 2016, Westlake was notified by the accreditation commission of the Assocation of Christian Schools International that we are officially fully accredited by ACSI. In January 2017, the school was further notified that we had received full accreditation by the AdvancED regional accreditation commission. Westlake is fully accredited by both bodies for a five year term (through December 31, 2021). The commission report listed four commendations, three opportunities for improvement, and one priority improvement.
Powerful Practices (commendations)
- The leadership and staff are committed to a Christ-like culture based on shared values which creates an understanding of the school’s mission and vision by the administration and staff.
- Thorough teacher evaluation rubrics, frequent classroom observations, faculty collaborative meetings, and individual faculty/administration meetings create an environment that facilitates teacher professional development.
- The formation and implementation of a parent-led spiritual formation strategies group furthers the mission of the school by providing students with additional opportunity for spiritual growth and authentic application of faith; this impacts the entire school community.
- The school conducts a rigorous testing program at the elementary level of math and elements of reading four times per year and provides data that is used to inform instructional decisions.
Opportunities for Improvement (improvements to be accomplished in the next accreditation cycle)
- All core curriculum maps need to include biblical integration that explicitly connects concepts for every unit. Furthermore, as a core subject, all secondary Bible classes should have complete curriculum mapping for every unit. (Note: curriculum mapping is an on-going project at Westlake)
- WCA should have a clearly defined ongoing formal process of induction of new school personnel to safeguard the mission and vision. This process equips new personnel will positively contribute to mission and culture of the school. (Note: this project is underway)
- School leadership and faculty should use data to drive instructional decisions as a result of training in data evaluation, to ensure an effective instructional program for students. (Note: this training is currently underway in our professional development program)
A minimum of 80% of K-12 staff who have instructional contact with students must hold current ACSI certification no later than December 1, 2016, to ensure all students are instructed by qualified personnel. As of December 2016, this priority has been met. Certification stands close to 100%.
Westlake Faculty Scores
One important aspect of the ERT visit was teacher observations. By using an objective and specific tool created by AdvancED, our teachers’ classroom performance was quantified on a four-point scale. Their scores were combined for a school average and then compared to the observation scores of accredited schools both nationally and state-wide. We should be very thankful for WCA’s fine teaching staff. Here are the results. Note their significantly above-average scores in every area.
|Progress Monitoring & Feedback||3.20||2.53||2.76|
What is the Process from Here?
- We must file an annual report of how we are progressing each May beginning 2018.
- We must repeat this process every five years (although it is not nearly as time consuming after the initial process).
What is accreditation?
Accreditation of an academic institution is verification by an external, reputable agency that the institution has attained an acceptable measure of excellence in alignment with formal standards and has in place an on-going program of constant improvement. This is entirely separate from our status with the Illinois State Board of Education. We are and have been an ISBE approved school for several decades.
What Are the Features of Dual Accreditation?
- An extensive, formal internal self-review of all aspects of the school’s operations
- Requires the updating of all documents and production of missing ones beneficial for a quality program
- Requires the school to meet rigorous standards set by both the ACSI and the NCA for quality schools
- Puts in place a continuous process of improvement for the future of the school
- Requires demonstration of quality through an external review by a team of ACSI-trained professional educators; this review not only concludes the initial accreditation process but is required every five years as part of the on-going improvement program
What Are the Benefits of Dual Accreditation for Westlake?
- Having in place an internal process for continual improvement based on external standards and reviews keeps us from becoming complacent; it forces the Academy’s leadership to pay attention to strengthening and improving the effectiveness of the organization and quality of instruction for our school family, regardless of who is leading.
- Accreditation provides families a measure of assurance concerning Westlake’s program, that it is recognized and being assessed for standards, performance, integrity, and quality. Businesses seek and display with pride their approval ratings from external reviews. Corporations go to great lengths to comply with ISO standards and gain certification. Being able to display both the ACSI and the AdvancED certificates of accreditation to our public will inspire confidence in what we are doing.
- Regional accreditation (AdvancED) enables us to add programs which are only available to regionally accredited institutions, such as having our own chapter of the National Honor Society.
- ACSI accreditation adds non-negotiable indicators and commitments to substantiate our distinctively Christian philosophy of education. Having an ACSI-led external review shines a very biblically informed spotlight on our entire program.
What Are the Standards We Have Met for Accreditation?
- There are five standards, each with specific indicators, assurances, and evidences
- Purpose and Direction – The school maintains and communicates a purpose and direction that commit to high expectations for learning as well as shared values and beliefs about teaching and learning.
- Governance and Leadership – The school operates under governance and leadership that promote and support student performance and school effectiveness.
- Teaching and Assessing for Learning – The school’s curriculum, instructional design, and assessment practices guide and ensure teacher effectiveness and student learning.
- Resources and Support Systems – The school has resources and provides services that support its purpose and direction to ensure success for all students.
- Using Results for Continuous Improvement – The school implements a comprehensive assessment system that generates a range of data about student learning and school effectiveness and uses the results to guide continuous improvement.
- We conducted and analyzed a major stakeholders survey.
- We analyzed testing data for our students.
- We produced an on-going school improvement program.