A few weeks ago, the Council of International Schools (CIS) team visited Woodstock school. The team examined the school for a week and documented the information in the form of a report which was sent to the CIS Board of Directors.
Woodstock is currently accredited with the Middle States Association (MSA), but the accreditation gets expired this year. MSA is recognized all over the United States by North-American universities, which is a matter of massive importance for the majority of students going to the States for further studies.
However, Woodstock has decided to extend their accreditation to the CIS accreditation as well, due to its global reach. According to the CIS homepage, it “connects members with more than 730 consultant schools and 590 universities in over 116 countries and gives them the opportunity to expand their network.”
So, in order to retain the status for MSA and get accredited to CIS, the administration decided to apply for both accreditations. If granted, the accreditations from the CIS and MSA will last for five years.
When asked about the significance of the accreditation, Pantelis Charalambous, a teacher from the American International school in Cyprus and the Evaluation Team co-chair, responded, “If you were to transfer from one school to another, to say that you are from an accredited school, says that your school has gone through a process where they have let someone inside helped to evaluate them, and helped ensure that they are meeting certain educational standards.”
Charalambous further added, “I could open up a school down the street, and I may not teach you much. But accreditation means that it [the school] is good quality. And it’s not just education, we also see things like fire extinguishers, safety, and well being, it’s the whole rounded. Everything to do with the school, even the food.”
There are three stages to pass through for getting the CIS accreditation: Preparatory evaluation, self-study, and team evaluation.
Mr. Philip Bowen, the Evaluation Team chair and the Principal at International School Moshi in Tanzania, elaborated on the self-study process that the school went through 18 months ago.
“About a year ago, Woodstock did a self-study. The self-study is a big document, almost like a long protocol and it’s split up into nine sections. There are all these standards that the school has to try and work towards meeting. So one of them might be a situation of a fire escape- how does the school deal with it? Another one might be about the adult to student ratio at the school,” he said.
In the self-study stage, the school has to ensure that it meets all the nine criteria required by CIS. And the school has to accurately report back the progress made in each criterion.
The reports from the self-evaluation were cross-checked by the CIS members in the team evaluation by their visit to the campus.Another surprising thing is that the evaluation team was not employed by the CIS Board. They came from different schools and were not financed by the CIS.
Rob Shuman, an evaluation team member from the Black Forest Academy in China, seemed very confident about the role of the evaluation team, adding, “I would say I’m just here to see if the school is doing what they say they are doing!”
Bowen added, “There’s a lot of effort that goes inside making sure that what the school says, what the teachers, students and everybody else says is the same thing. If we don’t, we have follow-up conversations.”
Some of the follow-up questions were regarding food, classes, teachers, and safety in dorms. “We asked a variety of questions. A few students expressed their concerns about rats in Midlands and danger from the monkeys on the walk up to school. These are the kind of problems we take into account and make sure that the school knows about it.”
Their main purpose is to point out the strengths and weaknesses of the school for further improvement. However, it’s not the job of the evaluation team to state how the school should solve a problem. They will address the problem and the school will have to figure out a solution to fix it.
One of the main issues that makes a school lose accreditation straight away is matters of safety. The safety criteria for drills, emergency door signs and instructions, and other miscellaneous protocols have to be followed.
Bowen recalled, “We conducted an evacuation drill at a school, where half the people went here and there. They didn’t know what they were doing. One of the guys said, ‘it’s ok, it’s only a drill!’ and continued with his email.”
Bowen half-jokingly added, “That’s it, they lost their accreditation!”
Bowen and his team conducted a surprise fire drill at Woodstock where everybody but the safety marshall was informed about this. When asked about their thoughts on it, Shuman said, “It went pretty well. It was just under nine minutes, which is not bad considering the number of stairs and the size of the school. However, students could have worked upon their behaviours. Some of the children were laughing, and whining, “Why do we have to do this [fire drill]?”
On the topic of things the school could work on, Bowen expressed his concern on how the school executes its guiding principle, “Tread lightly on Earth.” He said, “Woodstock has a lot of plastic waste. There are literally so many mineral water bottles everywhere.”
Nevertheless, there were plenty of characteristics that they loved about the school.
The diverse community was definitely one of the strongest characteristics.
“We love the community here. It’s just so special, especially the diversity of the people here. It is made up of diverse students and staff that come together and from this community that is nowhere else in the world,” Bowen said.
Ledlis added, the environment “supports everybody’s gifts and talents, and it gives you the knowledge and self-awareness to make you stronger.”
And finally, Bowen exclaimed, “I think the monkeys are incredible!”
Overall, the CIS team was quite impressed with the school. At the end of the week, the team members will deliver a long report to the CIS Board of directors who will decide whether or not to accredit the school.
When asked whether Woodstock will get the accreditation, Bowen exclaimed, “It’s looking hopeful! But only CIS can decide. So you will find out in the next eight weeks whether your school got the award or not!”
Featured photo by Mikko Aoki Liu
CIS informational photos by Hyenjin Cho
Edited by Hyenjin Cho