Serve on a Team
Become Part of a Key Catalyst for Continual School Improvement
Teachers and administrators who have served on NWAIS accreditation teams describe the process as an enriching and valuable experience. Over the course of four days teams learn about the host school and offer insights and observations to support the school’s continued success. Through the process of objectively examining a school, team members look at their own schools in a new way.
What is a Visiting Team?
- A NWAIS Accreditation Visiting Team is a group of administrators and teachers charged with reporting on a school. Teams are composed by the Coordinator of Accreditation Services with the intent of having a group of professionals who can effectively evaluate the school’s programs, administrative practices and long-term sustainability. Each Team is comprised of a Chair, Vice-Chair, Finance/Business Manager, and faculty and staff. Most teams also have a Third Head as part of the group.
- The Visiting Team and its report are part of a larger accreditation process that includes a Self-Study, and a review and decision by the NWAIS Accreditation Committee.
Why Do I Get to Serve on a Visiting Team?
- Your Head of School has chosen to include you in the pool of candidates for Visiting Teams. She or he has identified you as someone with experience, a broad view of education, the capacity to work well with others and good writing skills. Not all faculty and staff are nominated to this pool. The Coordinator of Accreditation Services in her efforts to assemble a well-rounded team that can meet the unique needs of the host school, has chosen you for your particular experiences and expertise.
What Can I Do Before Arriving?
- The most important preparation for team members is reading the Self Study. You will receive a copy 4-6 weeks before the visit. If you know what sections you will be evaluating, you can start to note comments and questions to inform your observations and reporting. The Self Study Manual and Accreditation Handbook (included in your confirmation letter and available on the NWAIS website) are good references.
When Do I Need To Arrive?
- You will receive specific times and locations from your Team Chair. Generally speaking, team members arrive Sunday afternoon.
When Can I Go Home?
- Specific times will vary, but most team members are free to leave by Wednesday afternoon.
Why Do I Need To Stay at a Nearby Hotel With the Rest of the Team?
- The schedule for an Accreditation Visit is quite rigorous. There are observations as well as meetings each day. Meals are generally eaten together and often while discussing the day’s observations. Having team members stay at the same hotel facilitates this work.
How Will Travel Arrangements Be Made?
- The host school will arrange for the food and lodging during your visit. You are responsible for making your own travel arrangements. The host school covers travel expenses, so please track your expenses and submit your receipts within two weeks of the visit.
What Is a Typical Schedule For a Visit?
- Please refer to the document titled ‘Sample Visiting Team Schedule’ in the appendices of the Self Study Manual. Generally speaking, team members are engaged from 2:30 pm on Sunday to 12:00 pm on Wednesday with breaks for meals and sleep. It is a very full schedule.
To Whom Do I Direct My Questions About Serving On a Visiting Team?
- Your Team Chair will be able to answer most of your questions regarding this specific visit. Feel free to contact the Coordinator of Accreditation Services with questions about the overall process.
What Is My Objective As a Visiting Team Member?
- Each Visiting Team member will be charged with evaluating an element (or a number of elements) of the school. You will be reporting on congruence between what is written in the Self Study and what you observe at the school. Do they do what they say they do? Have they shared all aspects of the school? You will be verifying if the school operates in a manner that aligns with the mission of NWAIS (in brief, Independence, Free and Open Inquiry, Commitment to Diversity, Ongoing School Improvement, and Collegial Relationships and Ethical Leadership). Team members will also be looking at the sustainability of the practices of the school. Can the school continue to meet its mission in the future and remain viable?
- Each member is working to set aside preconceptions of the ‘right’ way to do things. Team members will not evaluate or report on individual faculty or staff.
What Do You Mean By ‘Confidential’?
- In order for the Accreditation process to be safe for schools, all participants need to be discrete about what they see, hear or read. There may be conversations amongst the team, as it works to analyze the information about a school that will need to stay within the group.
Who Chooses My Assignment(s) For The Visit?
- The Team Chair will use the Visiting Team Bio Forms to determine where members will focus their time and writing. These assignments may change over the course of the visit, if needed.
What Kinds of Questions Are Okay To Ask Faculty and Staff?
- In the Self Study Manual, there is a document called ‘Tips for Gathering, Reviewing, and Analyzing Information’. In general, questions that are directed at clarifying or confirming your understanding of either the Self Study or observations will be helpful.
What Kinds of Questions Should I Avoid?
- It is better to avoid questions regarding specific individuals. Remember you are looking for congruence between what the school says it does and what it actually does. It is not a team member’s role to give targeted feedback to specific teachers.
To Whom Should I Direct Feedback About My Experience?
- While you are on a visit, your Team Chair will be a good resource. After the visit, you will receive a link to an online survey. Please use this tool to help the Coordinator of Accreditation Services improve the process.
Will I See The Final Report?
- The Google document from the visit will be edited and revised before it is submitted to the Accreditation Committee. Most Team Chairs share this draft with the team, but it is up to him/her to decide.
Who Determines If The School Is Accredited?
- The Accreditation Committee is a standing committee of the Board of Governors of NWAIS. Team Chairs present the Visiting Team Report to this group and answer any questions. The Accreditation Committee makes a recommendation to the Board.
What Do You Mean By ‘Avoid Being Prescriptive’?
- This relates to the overarching goal of evaluating the school based on its own mission and culture. Recommendations and Suggestions ideally offer directions for improvement, but do not impose ideas on how to arrive at a solution. Every school is unique and it is part of NWAIS’ mission to respect each schools’ capacity to find its own way towards meeting its goals.
What Is The Difference Between a Recommendation and a Suggestion?
- The main difference between a recommendation and a suggestion is the degree to which a school needs to respond. Schools are required to address all recommendations in the Visiting Team Report. Schools are free to choose whether or not to address a suggestion.
- Major Recommendations may reflect a school not meeting a Self Study Standard and may result in Conditions to accreditation. Conditions are generally comprised of practices and procedures that need to be put into place to meet a Standard. Recommendations are given when the school does not meet an Indicator.
- Suggestions highlight possible areas for reflection, examination or improvement and may offer a more specific strategy.
Can I Receive Any Professional Development Credit for Serving On a Team?
- In the state of Washington, clock hours are available for your work on a Visiting Team. Please contact the Coordinator of Accreditation Services for details.
Nominate a Team Member
Heads of Schools choose teachers and administrator from their schools to serve on accreditation teams. If you are interested in serving on a Visiting Team please contact Chaya Keefe.