The New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) ACE Learning Principles are a useful framework for accreditation. Trillium Hibbeln is the associate director of the NEASC wing of international education. I attended a full-day workshop led by her. My goal of the day was to get a better understanding of the ACE Ecosystem and how it is used by schools for accreditation. NEASC reaccredited TIS last month but we were not able to use the ACE Learning Principles because we were jointly accredited by the Council of International Schools. IB World Schools jointly accredited by NEASC/CIS use the CIS Domains and not the ACE Learning Principles. After learning more about the ACE Ecosystem, I am strongly considering dropping CIS accreditation and only going with NEASC because I think the ACE Ecosystem will be better for our school community. The CIS Domains are traditional in that they cover all areas of schools, not just curriculum or teaching and learning. This is important, but I think too much faculty time is spent on non-teaching issues. These can be covered with leadership concisely and not take up too much of our energy.
Trillium explained that the ACE Learning Principles are designed to help schools continue to grow during accreditation years, instead of documenting their compliance with school fundamentals such as finance, facilities, etc. These things are important, but for an established school like TIS, they should not be the centerpiece of our reflection during an accreditation cycle.
Another big takeaway from the day to help my current position as director of an international school was considering my role in creating and implementing big learning plans at the whole school level. We are in the final stages of completing our new Strategic Plan and the day assisted me with getting the plan together at a reasonable length. I also learned more about NEASC and the work it does.
NEASC is curriculum neutral and they accredit many types of international schools with different pathways for schools in different stages of development and curriculum types. Trillium recommended the book by Tod Rose, “The End of Average“.
The basic level is the six FOUNDATION STANDARDS. The foundation standards serve as the gatekeeper for new schools and check-in for the basics for accredited schools. The six big areas are as follows:
- Learning Structure – A clear purpose/mission and shared understanding of teaching and learning is the top level. Underneath would be a written curriculum (vertically and horizontally aligned) and policies that support the academics such as Special Needs, English Language Learners, etc.
- Organizational Structure – Solid governance (Board – Leadership)
- Health, Safety & Security – Are the students, employees, and parents safe?
- Finance, Facilities, and Resources
- Ethical Practice – Miscellaneous documentation (policies/handbooks) and practices (website, climate survey, etc.)
- Boarding/Residential – Special look at boarding students that are particularly at risk
ACE Pathways – The idea behind this was to change the process of accreditation. NEASC thought accreditation hijacked two years of innovation and growth by forcing schools to be compliant. Schools take time to evolve and the teaching and learning plans you are working on now will impact students in the future. In looking at the principles, there is much for schools to latch on to and grow.