High School works to renew accreditation

Jan 21, 2021

Wareham High School is in the process of renewing its accreditation, and Principal Scott Palladino reported at the Jan. 21 School Committee meeting that the first steps have gone smoothly.

The school has been continuously accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), and is working toward renewing that status. 

First, officials and teachers work on a self-study before hosting other educators at a “collaborative conference,” which is an opportunity for officials to get feedback from peers.

That conference happened in Nov. 2020, Palladino reported, and resulted in lots of positive feedback.

The school met four of five standards laid out by NEASC: learning culture, student learning, professional practice, and learning support. The school does not yet meet the standard for learning resources, but Palladino said the school has made significant progress and plans to meet that standard by the end of the school year.

Schools need to be re-accredited every ten years. Palladino said that the difference between the decade-old evaluation and the most recent was stark: In 2010, the school received four pages of recommendations. In 2020, the school received only one page. 

“It was really great to see that visual,” Palladino said.

Palladino said the school received a number of commendations from the educators who visited, including kudos for the school’s teacher evaluation system, written curriculum, variety of assessments, timely and actionable feedback to students, and use of technology.

Additionally, the evaluators were impressed by the school’s safe learning environment and diverse learning community.

We've made that an emphasis over the last few years, to make sure that students felt safe in the school,” Palladino said. “They're more inclined to learn in the diverse learning community. We're blessed with that: We can't take any credit for that, but it's pretty cool to walk down the hallways and see the diversity in the school.”

Other highlighted achievements included common planning time for teachers, partnerships with colleges and local businesses, and the availability of counselling services.

Palladino also presented three priority areas for improvement that were identified through the review.

First, officials will be working on revisiting the learning expectations set for students in grades 8 through 12 -- work Palladino said he hopes the high school can do in coordination with the rest of the district.

Educators will also be working on creating plans and programs to allow all students to receive the interventions and support they need to succeed academically, socially, and emotionally. Palladino said that while the school does well supporting students with additional needs and students who are high-achievers, the kids in the middle sometimes don’t get the attention they need.

The last priority is making sure that the physical building is in good shape. The high school is about 35 years old, and Palladino said that the building’s maintenance and repair needs are increasing. 

The peer reviewers also gave a variety of recommendations: Improve communications about the college process, develop a schedule to support planning and collaboration among teachers, ensure alignment with the middle school’s curriculum, formalize student feedback, and empower students to share their ideas about how learning is assessed.

“It truly feels collaborative in nature, and like they are here to support us,” Palladino said of the peer reviewers. 

Next, the school will work to draft a school growth and improvement plan.