As students receive grades, movies receive ratings and restaurants receive stars on Yelp, so too must independent schools receive evaluations. During the 2013-2014 school year, Marlborough underwent the accreditation process, and the results are in. The California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) gave Marlborough a seven year accreditation, the longest accreditation term a school can earn.
Head of Special Projects and co-chair of the Accreditation Committee Catherine Atwell explained the significance of Marlborough’s seven year accreditation.
“It speaks volumes about the quality of a Marlborough education and the esteem in which Marlborough is held in the larger independent school community that we received such a long accreditation,” Atwell said.
As a result of the accreditation, the School has been able to pinpoint four unique areas for improvement, which are articulated in four action plans. These plans will go a long way in enhancing students’ experience and better preparing them to succeed in college and beyond.
In order to prepare for the visit of CAIS/WASC representatives in the spring of 2014, faculty and staff began preparing in the fall of 2013 by breaking into 12 faculty focus groups. The faculty focus groups were each asked to reflect on one of a dozen categories prescribed in a ‘self survey’ provided by CAIS and WASC. One group reflected on schoolwide diversity, for example, while another considered technology. Each focus group responded to questions on the survey, reflecting on the strengths and weaknesses they identified in the School.
The accreditation committee, co-led by Atwell and science instructor Elizabeth Ashforth, then reviewed the self-surveys to find common themes. Atwell and Ashforth then drafted action plans in response to the self-surveys.
The road to accreditation culminated at the end of the school year with a visit from a group of visiting faculty and administrators from various independent schools throughout the Southwest region. The visiting committee spent several days on the Marlborough campus making observations about the School before reading the action plans and suggesting changes the School could make to any and all facets of the community and program.
Assistant Head of School and Head of Upper School Laura Hotchkiss ’86 believes that the initiatives that come out of the accreditation process will directly improve the student experience.
“Some of the things we’re going to be looking at are technology, the advisory program, the co-curricular programs, diversity in the School and more interdepartmental connections,” Hotchkiss said.
The School has already addressed the action plan’s second goal, “to provide meaningful opportunities for students to engage with the diverse Greater Los Angeles community and its resources,” by creating a series of field trips during the first week of school for the junior class. One of the goals of the new 11th grade field trips is to broaden students’ horizons by utilizing the vast socio-economic, racial and cultural diversity in Los Angeles. Rachel ’16 went on the hiking trip in the Angeles National forest and said that she found the experience highly rewarding. She hopes the school will open up the experience again in the future.
“It was great to get a change of scenery from the ARC and the cafe and see parts of L.A. that we might not see otherwise,” she said.
The final section of the action plan concerns the fundraising for and implementation of the Arden Project, a multi-step plan to expand the Marlborough campus to include more extensive athletic facilities. The School plans to break ground on the Arden Project in the summer of 2015.