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Schools engage their community to provide quality education

Written on November 14th, 2007

Local teams work together to accomplish School Quality Assurance Program recommendations

Schools are demonstrating genuine anticipation and enthusiasm as they examine and accomplish the recommendations that are a result of their participation in the School Quality Assurance Program (SQAP), says Lorna Keith.

Keith, the Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS) director of School Quality Services, says the program is being offered to all of the 64 OACS elementary member schools on a six-year rotation to help them provide quality Christian education.

“It’s a program that’s designed as a system of accountability for our schools. It’s a very transparent program, so that all the constituencies become aware of where a school is at, and how successful the school is in accomplishing its mission and vision,” she says.

The program, which spans about a year and a half, measures the satisfaction of the various stakeholders in the community and assesses the quality of the school program and its overall effectiveness in promoting the mission of the school, she says.

The five areas or domains that the SQAP examines are school identity, school management, academic performance, school culture and community relations.

In the initial stage, a local review team is formed to work through the different domains. The local review team consists of a board member, a committee member, the principal or vice-principal, a staff member and a community member. “We are drawing input from all the areas that touch the school,” explains Keith.

“When you have the local people looking at their school and assessing where they are at, it provides so much more of a realistic overview of the school,” she says. “The local team is just so energized in the task of finding out about the school and growing the school to its greatest potential.”

Members of the local review team embark on a self-study, which usually lasts about four months. An OACS advisor is available to guide the team in the process. The team researches different documentation and policies within the school. The result is a local review report, which identifies the school’s strengths and recommends areas of growth.

Following the local review phase, the SQAP sends two auditors to the school to validate the report. The auditors assess and prioritize the recommendations in the report. A mentor is then assigned to the school to guide and encourage them through the first year following their audit. The mentors report a sincere desire to work on the recommendations from the schools themselves, says Keith.

“Schools are definitely interested in change and in school improvement,” says Keith. “These good schools want to be even better, which I think is just amazing. This means keeping abreast of current trends in education and being aware of changes that are happening and incorporating what is good for each school.”

After a school completes the SQAP and reaches its goals as set out during the process, it could choose to continue with a public accreditation program from the Canadian Hallmarks Institute (CHI). Currently, there are seven OACS schools that are accredited by CHI, says Keith.

Now in its fifth year, 56 OACS schools have been invited to participate in the SQAP, which is a service valued at $15,000.