Judging Ourselves | April 2018
Criticism can be hard to take, whether it comes to us from the outside or from within ourselves. Either way, our ability to absorb and then respond to criticism in a constructive way depends on knowledge of self. As educators, it’s our job to foster healthy self-awareness in our students, and the starting point for that is developing the same in ourselves, as well as in the institution that is our school.
When undertaken with seriousness and care, judging ourselves can be one of the most fruitful of all exercises and can bring about positive change. That guiding principle is behind the self-study process that is required by our accrediting organization, the Independent Schools Association of the Central States (ISACS).
Every seven years we formally engage in the process of studying everything we do and testing it against our stated mission. We also look at how we’re adhering to ISACS accreditation standards. The centerpiece of this lengthy process is a massive, self-generated report that describes every aspect of our school and identifies what we see as our areas of strength and weakness. Where we see challenges, we are asked to posit plans and priorities for addressing them.
The process that results in the self-study is an expansive and inclusive one, touching and involving members of every one of our school’s constituencies: faculty, staff, administration, students, alumni, current and past parents, trustees, friends of the school. It truly is an excellent model for a school’s self-assessment and planning.
After nearly two years of work, we have our latest self-study in hand. In the immediate term, it will be reviewed and utilized by an accreditation team of independent school peers during a visit to our campus when they will take a first-hand look at our organization and operations. They will seek to verify that we are, indeed, doing what we say we do, and that we’re meeting the association’s standards for reaccreditation. At the end of their visit, they’ll submit their assessment, containing both commendations and recommendations. In the longer term, our self-study and the team report, taken together, will serve a more extensive purpose: they will provide the foundation for our ongoing strategic planning and will set indispensable guideposts for us as we move forward into the future.