Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

June 13, 2013

AHS scores official seal

With accreditation secured, now real work begins

By Dustin Luca
dluca@andovertownsman.com

---- — Andover High School has officially been reaccredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. But with a list of recommendations aimed at improving the school and its student culture, officials say they still have years of work ahead of them.

In a June 7 letter to school officials, NEASC Director Janet Allison announced the continued accreditation of Andover High through 2022.

The report offers 23 commendations praising the school, and then 15 recommendations for areas that need improvement.

Having gone through the process before, high school Principal Chris Lord said he has “never seen 23 commendations recognized in this way.”

“That’s definitely something to celebrate,” he said.

While the school has to merely maintain those qualities, a two-pronged list of recommendations awaits immediate action, the report reads. Six of the recommendations must move toward resolution by a report deadline of Feb. 1, 2014, while the remaining nine must have plans in plans by Oct. 1, 2014.

Though the school already spent the last few years preparing for the fall reaccreditation visit, high school Steering Committee Chairman Greg Waters said the real work is about to begin.

“Now that we have our rating, the follow-up team has to sit down. Whether that be in the next couple weeks or the first week of September, (we need to) break these recommendations down,” Waters said. “It’s going to guide us and, within five years, we should have all our recommendations under way, if not completed.”

The report is “a cornerstone for the school to meet strategic plan goals and meet some of the other directives that Dr. Lord has been trying to implement,” Waters said.

DUE IN FEBRUARY

Six action items are outlined in the report that require immediate attention from the high school.

First on the list is to “clearly define” the term “21st century learning expectations” that is used throughout the district’s strategic planning.

Though she prefers the term “future learning,” Superintendent of Schools Marinel McGrath said the 21st century learning model bases itself around four key, C-lettered terms: communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity.

As it stands, the high school now models its core values around three other Cs: character, curiosity and community.

“We have to find, in our strategic plan and through our core values, the mission and vision, the four Cs, and the high school has three,” she said. “In many of our courses, this is embedded. It’s just not embedded in all our courses.”

Second is to “establish a targeted level of performance on the school-wide rubrics.” The third item calls for the school to “ensure the consistent use of school-wide rubrics to assess student learning and achievement in alignment with 21st century learning expectations.”

All three items are “an application to real-world learning, that they aren’t just learning for what I call ‘ram, remember and regurgitate,’ those three Rs,” McGrath said. “You can actually see they’re doing something with learning — that’s future ready.”

Item four urges the school to develop a plan where “each student has an adult in the school, in addition to the school counselor, who knows the student well and assists the student.”

That goal is already well in the works, Lord said, and even has a name.

“We’re calling it the Community Building Block,” Lord said. “Fourteen-, 15-year-olds really need a place to go. They’re detaching from their parents a bit. We’re starting to put something together, some adult training initially.”

Though the Community Building Block is only in its early planning stages, the pseudo-advisory period could be implemented as early as next year’s second semester.

The fifth item calls for creating a “comprehensive professional development plan” that ties together “best practices both within the school day and during designated professional-development and early-release days.”

Improving access to the school’s library ends the list, and is repeated throughout the report.

As it stands, the library isn’t always available for students before, during and after school. Lord has until Feb. 1 to devise a plan correcting that.

“(Students) arrive between 7:15 and 7:30 a.m., and I’ll often go by there and the kids are sitting out there waiting for (the library) to open,” Lord said. “Same thing in the afternoon. Sometimes they have a faculty meeting and you can’t go into the library. Kids would nag out until after the time.”

TIMETABLE FOR TRIUMPH

The remaining items on the list must be in motion in 1 1/2 years, on the two-year anniversary of the visit. Among those nine goals:

Implement a plan to increase students’ respect for the school, underscoring their role and responsibility for its cleanliness.

Upgrade the library’s print and digital materials.

Address the physical appearance of the library, as well as space issues.

Incorporate “future learning” concepts into daily learning objectives shared with students.

To read the full report, visit www.aps1.net/DocumentCenter/View/4851.