Clapham School community, this year we will be completing a Self-Study as part of our re-accreditation process with our accrediting agency, the Independent Schools Association of the Central States (ISACS for short).
Check out this video where Jason Barney, our Academic Dean, breaks down what a Self-Study is, why we are doing it, and how each of us can be involved in the process as parents and community members!
The rest of this blog will walk through the same content if you prefer to read rather than watch.
What Is a Self-Study?
A Self-Study is like a book that we are writing about Clapham School 2019-20, attempting to capture all the important aspects of the school. The Self-Study will have 33 chapters or reports on all the areas of the school: from big picture things like Local Community, Governance, Facilities and Safety, to curricular areas like Fine and Performing Arts, Mathematics, History and Bible.
Committees of mostly faculty and staff, but also some board members, parents and even students, will meet in a few phases throughout the year to complete these reports on each area. Their goal will be to analyze the area in detail, write an overview--telling the story of how that area works--and then compose lists of Strengths, Challenges, and Plans & Priorities for the future.
All in all, the process will be intensive and incredibly valuable. I like to think of it in terms of the famous saying of the Delphic Oracle: "Know thyself." The Self-Study is an opportunity for us to do just that: really get to know how things are going on the ground in the day-to-day details of each area of the school.
To riff off of Socrates, the unexamined school is not worth running...
We need to be constantly engaged in the process of growth and improvement. Organizations should have a growth mindset too!
The last time we did a Self-Study was 2012-13, and it's already been really interesting for different groups to see how we've changed and developed since then.
Why Are We Doing a Self-Study?
As you can tell from what was said above, the Self-Study is going to be incredibly practical, as we will come away from it with a host of ideas for how to improve the school. It will provide valuable insights for the strategic planning process of the board and goals for improvement at every level. We'll start implementing some of them immediately this Fall and Spring!
But the inciting cause for the Self-Study is not just that it's a great idea, it's also because it's part of our re-accreditation process with the Independent Schools Association of the Central States (ISACS).
ISACS requires all its members to go through a 7 year cycle of re-accreditation. The second year is the year for Self-Study writing, followed by a visit from teachers and leaders of peer schools. After reading our Self-Study, this visiting team will sit in classes, interview faculty and staff members, and analyze every part of our school in order to see if we are doing what we say we're doing, and to give us their recommendations on which of our our plans & priorities are most important, or if there's anything we missed.
The Self-Study process embodies two important values of ISACS: full disclosure and congruence.
Full disclosure is the idea that in the Self-Study we should endeavor to get everything about the school out in the open to be discussed and then shared with the visiting team. We shouldn't be hiding anything we're not proud of, because then we can't honestly examine how to improve. Because of this, committees are committed to confidentiality, so that our process can be genuine.
Congruence means that our mission and philosophy should be embodied in some way in all the programs of the school. It's like the issue of integrity, in that we should actually be doing what we claim to be doing. And where that's not yet the case as fully as we would like, we should strive to bring those areas more into alignment. This is a great value for a school like ours, since our model of education is so radically different from many other ISACS schools. The fact that we are being "judged" according to our own standards (as long as we meet the other membership requirements for ISACS), is comforting.
How Can You Be Involved?
One way that you likely have already contributed to this process is through participating in our Community Survey last Fall, October 2018. The survey provided us with extensive data on parent, faculty/staff, and even student perceptions on so many different areas of the school.
Thank you so much for participating in that survey!
That data is now in the hands of the committees so that they can have some solid jumping off points for their analysis of each area. We're really grateful for the honest and thoughtful feedback that everyone gave. We know we're not perfect, and it's so helpful for insiders (like administration and faculty) to get the perspectives of those who are seeing the school from the outside in, because there are always things we miss.
Please keep participating in other surveys as they come up, because your feedback is so important to moving the school forward to the next level.
Second, if you do have time available to meet 3-4 times for an hour or so with a committee, email Jason Barney (firstname.lastname@example.org) in order to volunteer your time. We know that that won't work for everyone, but having parents involved in committees can give a really valuable perspective to the group. Most meetings will be after school on Tuesdays at 3 pm, or on Teacher Institute days. But even if you can't make every meeting, you'd still be able to make a meaningful contribution.
Third and most important is knowing, thanking and praying. Just knowing the amount of extra work teachers are engaged in during this project is an important step. But go beyond that and thank the teachers who are working diligently to make the school better through their careful thought and labor, in addition to their normal teaching and planning duties. But lastly, pray for our process of Self-Study. Pray that it would help us learn, and grow, that we would be humbled and built up through the process. Pray that the Lord will build Clapham School up through the words that are said in meetings and written in reports.
We know that nothing truly lasting and good has ever been done without the Lord's work.
"Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain." (Psalm 127:1 ESV)
So pray for God to work in Clapham School and build it up for his glory.
Ultimately, what we're doing in the Self-Study matters so much, because the work of educating children matters and we want to do that as well as we possibly can. We want to inspire and equip these young men and women to intentionally serve Christ in this world, and that is a work that is totally dependent on the grace of the Holy Spirit.
Don't forget to come out to "An Evening with Andy Crouch" this Thursday (9/5) at 7:00 pm in the College Church Commons. Share the event with your friends, whether through the flyers we sent home, the blog article or the Facebook event! We want to benefit the whole community with this event.
Also, mark your calendars for Fall Curriculum Night, the following Thursday night (9/12) at 6:30 pm in Welsh Hall of College Church. Gathering together as parents and teachers, involved together in the task of educating our children is so crucial. There will be heavy snacks and a short time of fellowship at the beginning before some important announcements about facilities, a testing update, and a talk by Jason Barney, our Academic Dean, on how the Clapham Group of the late 18th century, our school's namesake and inspiration, can inspire us more as a community in the work of equipping students to serve Christ in a needy world.