2017-05-11 / Front Page

OOB High School accredited

By Garrick Hoffman
Staff Writer

OLD ORCHARD BEACH – After more than 12 years since it was last accredited, Old Orchard Beach High School has earned accreditation again – and in full.

The accreditation was made official by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, the oldest accrediting agency in the country that is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as the sole agency to award accreditation to pre-kindergarten to 12th grade, elementary, middle and high schools in New England, said Old Orchard Beach High School Principal and Superintendent John Suttie.

“This outcome was a tremendous accomplishment for our school and community. It reflects the high quality of education we deliver and the dedication of faculty and staff to continuous improvement,” Suttie said.

Suttie said receiving accreditation signifies that a school is meeting the standards for best practices for education, teaching, learning and instruction.

In November 2016, a team of 23 educators from throughout the Northeast – including teachers and administrators – arrived at Old Orchard Beach High School to evaluate everything from curriculum and instruction to funding and resources over a four-day period.

“The purpose of the four-day accreditation visit was to review and determine from an outside professional viewpoint the extent to which the school is meeting the standards for accreditation,” Suttie said. “As part of the evaluation, the visiting committee met with all school constituents, reviewed the school’s selfstudy, visited a number of classes and examined examples of student work submitted by the school. During the comprehensive self-study, the faculty attempted to identify the school’s strengths and determined those areas in which changes would be beneficial.”

The association conducts its evaluation for accreditation every 10 years. Old Orchard Beach High School was last accredited in 2004, but because it annexed itself from Saco schools in 2014, it created logistical complications and thus delayed the process for the next accreditation period.

“It was long overdue and certainly a team effort,” said Assistant Principal Eric Hanson. “There’s a sense of accomplishment for the whole staff.”

Hanson, who has been assistant principal for two years, said the New England Association of Schools and Colleges team particularly noticed the school’s commitment to students. The organization is “the gold standard for secondary schools,” he said, and the school’s accreditation reflects that it’s current on best academic practices.

In January or February of this year, Suttie received notice of the accreditation, but on Thursday, April 27, he finally received an official, certified letter marking the accomplishment.

“It was a validation of the work of staff and students in the last couple years, and it was really satisfying to go through the process knowing we’re on the right track for the high school and providing a quality education,” Suttie said.

The school was given a list of 56 commendations from the association, and its only recommendations were to continue the work it’s already doing, Suttie said.

The process is rigorous, and takes a few years to prepare for, he said. Accreditation is based on seven standards, with about 90 indicators that the school should be meeting or working toward. The standards include core values, beliefs and learning expectations; curriculum; instruction; assessment of and for student learning; school culture and leadership; and school and community resources for learning.

Among its commendations were the creation of core values, beliefs, and guiding principles that are clear, easily understood, and that are becoming a part of the fabric of the entire school community; the opportunities provided for authentic learning that more effectively prepare students for real-life situations; and the positive, supportive, proud and respectful school culture evident throughout the building, Suttie said.

Among its recommendations were to continue to ensure clear alignment between the written and taught curriculum; ensure the school has a formal program or process so that all students have a regular connection with an adult, other than a guidance counselor, who knows the students well and supports them as they strive to achieve the school’s academic, social and civic expectations; develop and implement a plan to make information about available special education support services easily accessible to all families; and create and implement a formal long-range written plan to address all future facility needs and capital improvements, according to the report.

Continued accreditation status is important for every high school for a variety of reasons, Suttie said. One is that it attracts families to an area where they can feel confident sending their children to school. Another is because it says to the public that the school has gone through the accreditation process, has been vetted and that the institution qualifies for accreditation by the only entity that can provide it. It also may make the school more eligible for grants, Suttie said.

If a school does not receive accreditation, nothing would happen but it would be an indication that the school is failing, Suttie said. Sometimes schools are put on probation or receive accreditation with conditions, but Old Orchard Beach High was awarded full accreditation, he said.

To follow up the accreditation, Suttie has to submit a two-year and five-year report. The twoyear report is due Oct. 1, 2018 to include progress of recommendations, and then three years after that to do the same.

“The bottom line,” Suttie said, “is we’re very, very pleased that the committee validated how we felt about ourselves.”

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