Browsing The Northern Cross

Jean Virant: School accreditation is a challenge and a gift

By Jean Virant
Guest columnist

Marquette Catholic School in Virginia is in the midst of a process that is both a challenge and a gift. We are nearing the end of our seven year accreditation cycle with the Minnesota Nonpublic School Accrediting Association and working to renew our ongoing eligibility for grades K-6.

Taking a hard look at how our school meets the needs of student and families is a challenge. However, the gift will come from the benefits our students are sure to receive as Marquette School benefits from comparing our school program against the rigorous standards MNSAA has established.

We are currently engaged in a two-year self-study process that affords us the opportunity to closely examine our school, to seek ways to maintain and improve, and to craft a new vision for future improvement.

Stakeholders of the Marquette Catholic School community have collectively determined that we desire to continue our accreditation with MNSAA, Minnesota’s premiere accrediting agency authorized by the Department of Education. We value accreditation because it makes a public statement that Marquette School is confident we can be measured against rigorous accreditation standards, and we are willing to engage in long-range strategic planning for the future.

Accreditation offers objective outside validation that our school is meeting high standards and is actively seeking to provide students a quality educational program. It is our expectation that a review by professional educators who are not affiliated with Marquette School will assure our stakeholders that our school currently provides a quality education and is focused on continued improvement.

The MNSAA process requires the publication of a self-study, which will define how we currently meet, are striving to meet or are exceeding the accreditation standards the association has defined.

MNSAA standards are determined by nonpublic school leaders from across Minnesota who possess knowledge and expertise in education and school administration. MNSAA has seven standards which direct our work in the following areas: Mission & Philosophy, Teaching & Learning, Climate for Learning, Community Relations, Personnel, Leadership & Governance, and Strategic Planning for Improvement.

With the decision to seek to renew accreditation with MNSAA, we have agreed to walk through a rigorous self-analysis in an effort to determine “where we currently are at” and “where we want to be.” This process is helping Marquette School to celebrate its areas of strength so that we can build upon our assets. It is also guiding us in defining areas of challenge and growth so that we can modify and make improvements.

The capstone of the whole MNSAA process is the formulation of an improvement plan for the future. This plan will serve primarily as a road map that will both lead and guide our school into the future.

In a little over a year, after our investigative work has been completed and published, our school will have the opportunity to validate its achievements and receive further recommendations for improvement. This occurs when a team of outside trained and experienced educators comes to our school next spring.

These leaders will visit our school for three days to confirm the information we identified in our self study by visiting classrooms, interviewing our team and reviewing documents on-site. While at our school, the team will draft a report containing the conclusions of its investigation. This Team Report is submitted to MNSAA’s Board of Directors along with information provided by the team chair and the association’s executive director for evaluation and a decision regarding our future accreditation.

After the visit and the findings have been reviewed, we will need to respond to every recommendation made by the on-site team and revise our improvement plan accordingly. This will be a cause for great celebration and sighs of relief!

As Marquette Catholic School is already recognized as a valued member of MNSAA’s association of schools, we have every confidence that that we will be once again enter a new accreditation cycle.

Jean Virant is principal of Marquette Catholic School in Virginia.