Mark of Excellence

March 11-17, 2004
Mark of Excellence
By Eileen Jevis/ SUN staff writer
Seton Catholic Central Receives Re-Accredidation by Middle States BINGHAMTON –– Seton Catholic Central High School has met the standards of excellence required by the Middle States Association’s Commission on Secondary Schools and has earned re-accreditation for the period of Nov. 1, 2003 through Nov. 1, 2010. The standards met by Seton Catholic include the school’s philosophy, mission, beliefs, objectives, governance and leadership, organizational design and staff, educational programs, learning media services and technology, student services, student life and activities, facilities, health and safety, finances, assessment of student learning and planning.

Kathleen Dwyer, principal at Seton Catholic, said that while the process was long and arduous, it gave the school an opportunity to find out what it was good at and what its weaknesses were. In fact, Dwyer said that the association pointed out to the school’s administrators that the school wasn’t giving itself much deserved recognition and praise for the quality education it offers. Seton Catholic elected to use the “Validating the Vision” protocol for accreditation, which required the school to meet more rigorous criteria. “Validating the Vision” combines accreditation and strategic planning geared specifically for Catholic schools and requires both internal self-evaluation and external validation. Dale Meagley, co-internal coordinator on the re-accreditation team, said that the school was required to assess not only its mission and its effectiveness but its academics as well. “We started the internal process and we looked at ourselves to evaluate the state we were in,” said Meagley. “We found what we were good at and what our weaknesses were. We addressed those weaknesses and came up with four objectives to address them.” Meagley said that Middle States requires all of the objectives be measurable. The fourth objective the team addressed was achieving full registration and enrollment of all students currently enrolled in the area Catholic middle schools and a 10 percent increase in enrollment of students from neighboring schools, both public and private. Middle States determined that this objective was not measurable and therefore, it was set aside and not included in the assessment for meeting the standards for accreditation.

The three objectives identified by Seton Catholic Central High School are: • By the year 2008, Seton Catholic Central High School students will demonstrate the school’s mission of stewardship.

• By the year 2008, Seton Catholic Central High School will show an annual 10 percent improvement in its performance in technological skills.

• Seton Catholic Central High School will increase student appreciation and skills in the area of visual and performing arts.

The process for Middle States re-accreditation took close to two years to prepare. It required a tremendous amount of effort on the part of the students, faculty, staff, administration and parents who worked together on committees not only to identify goals and objectives but also to create a comprehensive school philosophy that expanded on the school’s mission statement and its statement of beliefs. Meagley explained that every objective has a strategy and action plan in place so that each objective will be accomplished. In the area of technology, the goal is to have the students show better technological skills, explained Meagley. “But first we have to educate the staff and increase their level of technological skills.” Gabby Nocciolino is a student representative who served on the re-accreditation committee. She said she has already noticed that teachers are including technology more in their classrooms than ever before. “Whether it’s emailing us our assignments, or requiring us to check our homework on the school’s website, teachers who didn’t necessarily need technology to teach their courses are now integrating it into their curriculum.” Gabby also explained that there is an increase in the number of teachers using as a valuable tool to prepare the students for Advanced Placement and Regents testing. The website, to which the school subscribes, offers practice tests and questions which teachers can assign for homework. Dwyer said that the school’s new cafe and study area, called Saintly Grounds, is a direct result of the schools efforts and goals to increase the students’ skills in technology. Saintly Grounds provides students with an after-school gathering place to work on computers while providing beverages and snacks to those who are hungry for sustenance and knowledge. “We want to increase student access to technology beyond the school day,” said Dwyer. “We have laptops coming that the students will be able to sign out and use at home.”

Anchen Schulz, another co-internal coordinator, said that it’s important to note that the objectives identified can be achieved in the next five to 10 years. A Middle States assessment team will return to the school in five years to measure the school’s progression in meeting their goals and objectives. Schulz said that the goals put in place are measurable ones. “It’s a measurable timeline,” she said. “The resources that are committed to fulfilling the objectives are in place.”

The Middle States assessment is very expensive. When Dwyer was asked why the school chose this form of measuring the school’s excellence, she said that it was because the Middle States Association is an international standard of excellence. “It’s highly thought of,” said Dwyer. “Middle States has a high status throughout the country. By earning Middle States accreditation, we are meeting certain standards that are immediately recognized by colleges and universities throughout the country.” Accreditation encourages schools to continue the process of self-improvement and sets protocol that cultivates excellence. It also provides a systematic process that assists schools in establishing a vision for their future.

At a pre-meeting with the Middle States Association, Dwyer said that the school was required to meet preliminary qualifications in order to be considered for re-accreditation. “They not only look at our financial solvency, but at our test scores,” she said. “They looked to see if we were already exceeding the minimum requirements for accreditation. It’s a continuing process of self-improvement,” said Dwyer. “It’s all about getting our house in order.”

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