Posted by: Stefan Anderson | July 7, 2012

Conserve School Earns NCA CASI Accreditation

As the Head of School for Conserve School it gave me great pleasure to create the news release you will find below. Conserve School’s successful completion of the AdvancED accreditation process through the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement is the result of much hard work by entire Conserve School community.

Two years after beginning operation as a semester school for high school students interested in environmental stewardship, Conserve School has received high marks from its accreditation Agency.

Head of School Stefan Anderson announced today that Conserve School earned accreditation from the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement (NCA CASI), an accreditation division of AdvancED.

NCA CASI provides nationally recognized accreditation, the purpose of which is continuous school improvement focused on increasing student performance. To earn accreditation, schools must meet AdvancED’s high standards, be evaluated by a team of professionals from outside the school, and implement a continuous process of school improvement. Conserve School’s performance was evaluated in seven areas. Conserve School earned AdvancED’s top rating of “highly functional” in three areas and received the second-highest and most common of AdvancED’s four ratings , “operational,” in the four other areas.

“Accreditation is an important way that we demonstrate to our students, parents and the community at large that Conserve School is focused on raising student achievement, providing a safe and enriching learning environment, and maintaining an effective and efficient operation staffed by highly qualified educators,” stated Dr. Mary Anna Thornton, the Assistant Head of School for Conserve School.

Dr. Mark Elgart, President/CEO of AdvancED, the parent organization of NCA CASI, stated, “NCA CASI Accreditation is a rigorous process that focuses the entire school on the primary goal of creating lifelong learners. Conserve School is to be commended for engaging in this process and demonstrating a commitment to continuous improvement.”

“NCA CASI accreditation is recognized across state lines. It eases the transfer process as students move from their sending schools to spend a semester at Conserve School and then back to their sending schools. It also assures parents and sending schools that Conserve School is meeting nationally accepted standards for quality and successful professional practice,” stated Phil DeLong, the Director of Admissions for Conserve School.

Conserve School’s mission is to inspire young people to environmental stewardship through academics and engagement with the forests, lakes, and wildlife of the school’s wilderness campus. Each semester the school brings sixty high school students from across the country to the Northwoods of Wisconsin to live and learn for sixteen weeks. Thanks to the generosity of the school’s founder, tuition for all students is covered by the Lowenstine Honors Scholarship Program. “We are looking for academically motivated students with a passion for environmental stewardship and a love of the outdoors. Having NCA CASI accreditation will help us find them,” stated Head of School Anderson.

More information about Conserve School and its accreditation can be found at www.ConserveSchool.org/accreditation.

Conserve School selected AdvancED as its accreditation agency of choice in 2009 while it was establishing its semester school program. As a result, many of the required and suggested elements of an AdvancED high achieving school were built in from day one. Over the past two years our accreditation team of Assistant Head of School Mary Anna Thornton. Academic Dean and Spanish teacher Kathleen O’Connor and math teacher and Academic Technology Coordinator Kathy Jones have done an excellent job of guiding Conserve through the accreditation process. The result of that work was a lengthy self-assessment report and many binders of supporting documentation.

In early May a Quality Assurance Review (QAR) team from AdvancED visited to evaluate the school. The QAR team was led by Mike Johnson who is the Director of Academic Services for the River Falls School District. He was assisted by Mark Braun, Maggie Bishop, and Jean Weaver. Mark Braun is the current Head of the Outdoor Academy, a semester school in North Carolina. Maggie Bishop is the Director of Trees for Tomorrow an environmental learning center in Eagle River, Wisconsin. Jean Weaver is the Sustainability Coordinator and Science Department Chair for the Prairie School a private day school in Racine, Wisconsin.

While at Conserve School they not only reviewed the binders of supporting materials, they also spoke with a number of Conserve School stakeholders including: teachers, students, parents, administrators, support staff and a member of the Conserve School Board of Trustees.

In the AdvancED Quality Assurance Review Report the QAR Team identified a number of strengths and opportunities for Conserve School. Here are a few of those strengths:

  • The central role of the seventeen learning goals is extremely impressive.
  • The very intentional alignment of these goals with the school’s special mission and purpose, the extent to which they are imbedded in program, and the inclusion of these goals in the post-program reintegration surveys represent the school’s extraordinary commitment to seeing the mission through and assessing its accomplishment.
  •  The administration have comprised an invaluable leadership force during the challenging transitions the school has faced since its inception, and they have apparently imparted the mission to their committed faculty and staff with great success.
  • Classroom activities and projects, most notably those in the humanities where meaningful hands-on activities are especially difficult to develop, exemplify ideal use of service-learning and authentic assessment.
  •  Teachers and staff are whole-heartedly committed to the success of Conserve as a semester school and work tirelessly to achieve their vision; as a result, in just two years, Conserve is a thriving environmental stewardship school.
  •  Teachers are given ample opportunity and are encouraged to work collaboratively towards improvement and student success.
  •  The staff focuses on the seventeen learning goals to connect what they are teaching to the school’s mission. The students are assigned journaling to connect what they learned with one of the seventeen learning goals. This provides consistency for the teachers and students.
  •  The staff is highly qualified and collaborates to ensure the success of students.
  •  The school provides a safe and orderly environment for everyone.
  •  The leadership team meets regularly and ensures there is ample common planning and reflection time for its staff. Staff are able to formally collaborate as an entire unit once a week.

While I am pleased with high ratings Conserve School received as part of its accreditation, I also appreciate the suggestions for improvement of the program the process generated. I look forward to working with my staff on addressing those suggestions as part of Conserve Schools strong commitment to continuous improvement.

Let me end this blog entry by repeating one of the strengths identified by the QAR team:

Teachers and staff are whole-heartedly committed to the success of Conserve as a semester school and work tirelessly to achieve their vision; as a result, in just two years, Conserve is a thriving environmental stewardship school.

That is the key to Conserve’s success. Thanks to all who have helped make Conserve School become the amazing semester school that it is today.

Sincerely,

Stefan Anderson
Head of School

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