Wilton High School confidently awaits NEASC accreditation status

Following a four-day evaluation earlier this month, Wilton High School is awaiting news from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) about its accreditation status.

NEASC accreditation is an “ongoing, voluntary” system of accountability based on standards that “define the characteristics of good schools and colleges,” according to the association’s website.

The NEASC accreditation process is a standards-based system of accountability that occurs every 10 years and consists of a self-study, peer review and follow-ups.

“The process is really, really comprehensive,” Wilton High School Principal Robert O’Donnell told The Bulletin in April, “and you definitely want to be accredited because it ascertains the fact that you have met the standards outlined by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.”

According to the NEASC website, schools that receive accreditation demonstrate:

  • Substantial compliance with established qualitative standards.

  • Integrity in statements to the public describing the institution’s program.

  • Institutional commitment to improvement.

  • Sufficiency of institutional resources.

A NEASC visiting committee, comprised of 16 educators, arrived at Wilton High School on Sunday, May 1. A panel discussion took place that afternoon, followed by teacher interviews, meetings with parents and Board of Education members, and a welcome reception.

Monday through Wednesday, NEASC committee members toured the high school, held meetings with school staff, collected data, presented reports, and debriefed with one another.

O’Donnell said the committee examined “every aspect” of the school — from facilities, student life and school climate to curriculum, instruction and assessment — and students will be extensively involved in the process.

“We had the chance to get some feedback from our visiting chair, Dr. Nick Spera, and he spoke very positively about our school,” O’Donnell told the Board of Education during its May 12 meeting.

O’Donnell said he had the opportunity to meet with Spera every day and talk about his observations.

“Not surprisingly, one of the things he talked about every single time was our student body — their talents, their enthusiasm, their engagement in learning, their deep cognitive engagement, and how they are so much a part of the fabric of what we do,” said O’Donnell. “That’s something that we see in all of our students and we’re all so proud of that.”

O’Donnell said Spera also spoke about “the power of our teaching faculty — their level of talent, content area expertise, and the quality of the instruction.”

During the visit, the NEASC committee also reviewed a self-study conducted by Wilton High School faculty, which focused on the following standards:

  • Core values, beliefs and learning expectations.

  • Curriculum.

  • Instruction.

  • Assessment of and for students.

  • School culture and leadership.

  • School resources for learning.

  • Community resources for learning.

The committee then drafted a report on how Wilton High School met the standards, which Spera will be “working to finalize that report over the next coming weeks,” Associate Principal Rich Sanzo told the board.

Spera will then send a copy of the report to Wilton High School, where “the high school team will have the opportunity to review that report, provide additional comments and feedback for the report,” said Sanzo.

“We will soon be receiving a finalized report from the visiting committee, and that really begins the process of laying the foundation for what our improvement efforts at the high school will be over the course of the next two to five years,” said Sanzo.

“Right now they have an October date scheduled, and that’s when our accreditation is actually voted upon.”

Based on the feedback from the visit, Sanzo said, “we expect that Wilton High School will remain an accredited school.”

As follow-up, Wilton High School would be required to send two-, five- and seven-year reports to NEASC and compile two- and five-year plans about how it will “continue to engage in the process,” according to O’Donnell.

To learn more about NEASC, visit www.neasc.org.