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Loving Accreditation

Loving Accreditation

Convince yourself that accreditation can be a joy-filled experience. If you begin believing, those around you will also see the joy.How does a Lutheran school joyfully accomplish accreditation? For many, the word accreditation can generate anxiety and high levels of stress. For others, it may bring avoidance of the topic and even denial. As a Lutheran school, we should first examine why we participate in the National Lutheran School Accreditation (NLSA) process.

According to the National Lutheran School Accreditation Committee, NLSA grew out of a strong desire to help schools accomplish their stated missions and improve the quality of schools. It has become a process designed to help Lutheran schools to continue improving based on national standards and their own unique missions. Accreditation can promote growth and help keep schools from facing stagnation.

Many schools are preparing to begin accreditation next year and not looking forward to the journey. So, how can you joyfully accomplish the accreditation process? The first and foremost answer is attitude! If you begin with a negative attitude, those around you will also have a negative attitude. Convince yourself that accreditation can be a joy-filled experience. If you begin believing, those around you will also see the joy.

Accreditation begins with pieces. It has many small parts that work together for the whole. These P-I-E-C-E-S can help guide you through the process of accreditation and make it more joy-filled.

prayPrayer! Always begin with prayer. Prayer should be an integral piece throughout the entire process. Pray as individuals and as groups and have others praying for your school and the process. Invite families and congregational members to participate through prayer.

Planning is also a vital part of accreditation. As a team, start early. If you wait until the last minute, everyone will be rushing around just to complete tasks on time, and the stress level jumps considerably. Beginning the year prior to NLSA gives everyone time to think about what will need to be accomplished and what evidence will need to be collected.

Training should happen during this planning stage. Make sure to train all teachers, staff, and others in the accreditation process. If they see it as little pieces with everyone having a single piece, it is less overwhelming for the group as a whole. Breaking the process into smaller pieces makes it seem more manageable.

Delegate responsibilities and involve the teachers, staff, pastors, parents, students, and congregational members.involveInvolve others! Accreditation is a team process and not intended as an individual task. Delegate responsibilities and involve the teachers, staff, pastors, parents, students, and congregational members. Each individual will have some ownership in the self-study process. Working as a team can also help foster relationships among all those involved.

Faculty and staff have a unique perspective and deep understanding of the school and must be significantly involved in all aspects. Make sure they know and understand the process and its requirements, which will help them to be invested and involved throughout the entire process.

Parents, students, and congregational members can also add a different perspective. They help make sure information and narratives are clear and understandable. Sometimes, teachers and staff know what they are trying to say, but it is cloudy to those reading it. Parents and other members read with a new set of eyes and can improve clarification. Remember the validation team will be reading your report for the first time, and they may not have prior knowledge on the topic.

energizeEnergize! The leaders will set the tone! If the principal and early childhood director are dreading the accreditation process, the rest of the team will also dread it. A positive attitude will be key to having a successful experience. There will be times throughout the process when everyone will be exhausted and feel it will never end. During those times, you need an extra measure of excitement. Have fun with the process! Committees may want to consider meeting in someone’s home, at a local café, outside on campus or at a park, or in some other relaxing location. A change in location and scenery can help revive the energy level.

Instead of just having accreditation meetings, have JAM Sessions. JAM sessions are Joy-filled Accreditation Meetings. Having JAM Sessions reminds everyone that this process should be positive and joy-filled. There are also other acronyms you can develop to suit your school. Be creative and have f! un

celebrateCelebrate! Remember to celebrate the little and big accomplishments. There will be positive and negative aspects along the way. Focus on the positive, even while finding solutions for the negative. Committees have a tendency to focus more on the negative, but remember the positives also need attention.

Celebrate even the small milestones during the process. It may even be as simple as celebrating the formation of all the committees and finding all of the volunteers to serve. Once you fill each committee, celebrate and give thanks for all those willing to serve and give their time.

evaluateEvaluate! Evaluation throughout the accreditation process is important. This is when you find your weaknesses and strengths. You also can call them your “grows and glows.” Use these areas to drive improvements and find best practices. The entire accreditation process is to help schools evaluate the seven standards outlined in the manual. Through this evaluation, goals are established and schools have a direction and guide for continuous improvement. Without a school action plan for continuous improvement, a school may become stagnant.

shareShare! Sharing will be a part of the entire accreditation process. This will start at the beginning of the process and continue throughout the School Action Plan and beyond. Sharing with others will include, but is not limited to surveys, announcements to parents and congregation members making them aware of accreditation, action plans sent to the national and district offices, and experiences with others.

If [teachers and staff] understand the importance of accreditation and feel a part of the team, they feel ownership.Sharing should be a vital part of accreditation. Begin by sharing information about accreditation with the teachers and staff. Help them understand their importance and roles in the entire self-study process. If they understand the importance of accreditation and feel a part of the team, they feel ownership. It also helps them to answer questions from parents and congregational members, support the process, and then help carry out the School Action Plan.

After completing the self-study, a validation team will visit the school and verify its accuracy. Team members will ensure that the school’s action goals are realistic, measurable, and attainable. It is important to invite all staff, committees, and any other stakeholders to the final exit report. It is at this time that the team captain will share the report summary and outstanding strengths. A full written report will be sent later. Share this report with staff too.

Overall, National Lutheran School Accreditation can be a joy-filled experience. It was developed to help schools evaluate themselves based on their unique purposes. It recognizes the schools that complete the process successfully and offers affirmation to those providing a quality, Christian education.

National Lutheran School Accreditation (NLSA) has the vision of helping Lutheran schools serve children and families by providing God-pleasing, quality learning experiences, adult-child relationships, and nurturing environments. It provides a service that empowers schools to develop and improve high-quality, Christ-centered education.

NLSA is not just for elementary schools. They offer accreditation for early childhood (within a school or stand-alone center) and secondary schools. Visit www.luthed.org to access more information and resources.

Diana Meers serves as principal at Immanuel Lutheran School in St. Charles, Mo.

Photos © iStock/Andrey Popov, AppleZoomZoom, scyther5, Dmitriy Shironosov, wutwhanfoto, FS-Stock. Photo collage by Kathryn Brewer.