It’s exam time at Discovery Academy. Not for the students, for the academic program as a whole. The Academy is undergoing an accreditation process that takes place every six years.
Jonathan Jones, Discovery’s Headmaster, says every aspect of the academic program is being examined. “Our mission, curriculum, staffing, administration, and facilities are being reviewed,” he explains. “The whole theme of accreditation is constant school improvement.”
Discovery is currently accredited by the Northwest Association of Accredited Schools. But the Utah State Office of Education is responsible for carrying out the evaluation. Prior to his position as Headmaster, Jones spent 13 years working with the state conducting accreditation evaluations at dozens of schools. “I know what needs to be done,” he notes.
He says the evaluation is an extensive process that includes annual reports and, for the six year evaluation, a statistical analysis of the program. Those statistics measure students’ grade point averages on their entrance and exit from the Academy, as well as SAT or ACT scores.
The entire academic team participates in the process by identifying areas that could be improved and creating an action plan to achieve each goal. Jonathan says this process is critical to identifying and implementing improvements. “It really makes us work together and take a good, close look at ourselves. Sometimes we have to rethink. There may be a better way of doing things.”
“Feedback from parents and students is also part of the process,” Jones says. Within the coming weeks families will receive a questionnaire which asks them to share their perspectives on the Academy’s strengths and weaknesses.
Once the paper work portion of the review is complete, an evaluation team will spend approximately two days conducting an on-site visit. Jones says that visit is where academy teachers have the opportunity to show evaluators the unique strengths of Discovery’s teaching style.
“Evaluators won’t see teachers standing in front and lecturing. They’ll see teachers working one on one,” he says.
Jones says in schools that use packet programs, students may or may not meet with an actual teacher. “They’re sort of on their own,” he explains. “It’s just a matter of reading and filling in the blanks.”
Contrast that with Discovery Academy, where Jones says evaluators will see students completing an entire textbook, working side by side with teachers. “It’s definitely a tutorial program,” Jonathan explains. “The teacher is there to work the student and teach each concept so that the student understands. On every chapter, students must past a test with 80% or better. The students work individually but it’s personalized. If there is a learning disability we accommodate them right there, one on one.”
Although the reports and site visit will be finished by March, Jones says the accreditation process is never really over. “The whole theme of accreditation is constant school improvement.”