Overbrook School for the Blind is proud to be Middle States Accredited
What is accreditation?
Accreditation is the affirmation that a school provides a quality of education that the community has a right to expect and the education world endorses. Accreditation is a means of showing confidence in a school's performance. When the Commission on Secondary Schools accredits a school, it certifies that the school has met the prescribed qualitative standards of the Middle States Association within the terms of the school's own stated philosophy and objectives.
The chief purpose of the whole accreditation process is the improvement of education for youth by evaluating the degree to which a school has attained worthwhile outcomes set by its own staff and community. This is accomplished by periodically conducting a comprehensive self-evaluation of the total school. Through the accreditation process, the school seeks the validation of its self-evaluation by obtaining professional judgement from impartial outsiders on the effectiveness of the total school operation. The intent throughout the process is more than to focus on shortcomings; the chief goal is to seek remedies for inadequacies and to identify and nurture good practices.
Accreditation of a secondary school is on an institutional basis. It should be noted that the whole school, not just one program such as the college preparatory courses, is covered by the accreditation.
The following are some of the many benefits of accreditation:
• greater clarity of purpose
• stronger internal relationships
• wider professional participation
• more effective methods of planning for school improvement
• improved consistency between educational purpose and practice
For a more in-depth look at benefits, visit our Why is Accreditation Important? page.
Given the unique variety found in the member schools of Middle States, the Commission on Secondary Schools offers a number of protocols for schools wishing to undertake the accreditation process. Regardless of the protocol, however, schools are expected to meet the CSS standards before accreditation will be granted or renewed. Two protocols developed by CSS specifically for its schools are Accreditation for Growth or AFG and Continuous School Improvement or CSI. Free workshops are offered by CSS to member schools on the utilization of either of these protocols. Other protocols have been accepted by CSS, and schools interested in using one of them should contact the CSS office for further information. In addition, CSS also collaborates with a number of other accrediting agencies to offer joint accreditation to schools interested in such an option.
The Pathways to School Improvement (Pathways) process is a five-year accreditation protocol available to the member schools of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. Focusing on a preferred vision of the future, Pathways utilizes a strategic planning model to ask schools to develop two to four measurable student performance objectives as the lynchpin of an assessment of growth in school improvement. The process requires schools to establish a planning ethic, develop a five-year strategic plan, and meet established standards. Committing to Pathways, Overbrook School for the Blind has agreed to the following:
It has committed to focusing on the end result—improved student performance—as the primary priority for school improvement efforts.
It has committed to operating from a vision of where it wants and needs to go with the mission and beliefs serving as a unifying force for change.
It has committed to including a varied spectrum of stakeholders in the process of continually defining a preferred vision, in developing the means to get closer to that vision, and in implementing action plans developed by these stakeholders.
It has committed to a process where progress will be continuously reviewed.
It has agreed to participate in a peer review and external validation process by accepting outside visitors.
Developed by the Commission on Secondary Schools (CSS), Pathways requires schools who have committed to Pathways to be visited every five years by a team of volunteer educators acting as critical friends to validate the school’s plan and to assure that standards are being met. At the two and one half year mark in the five- year cycle, a one person, one-day visit is arranged to review the school’s progress. The Mid-Point Reviewer is specifically charged with examining:
the continued wide-spread acceptance of the plan
the culture of planning and review that indicates that the school has been critical and reflective about its progress
The projected ability of the school to meet its accreditation obligations within the cycle