A FEW YEARS AGO, DR. MACALUSO commented in an Eastside Prep video that if Thomas Jefferson saw an operating room in the twenty-first century he wouldn’t know what to think, and that if he saw a classroom in the twenty-first century he would be disappointed. Schools can be fairly static structures and their cultures often follow suit.
Yet learning is a dynamic process. To “do school,” or anything differently than the cultural norm, one needs to do so with focus and intent.
Perhaps if Jefferson saw the TMAC and TALI buildings he would be heartened, seeing these facilities as a signal that education can be done differently—and better—than it was done before and during the twentieth century.
When you walk into an EPS classroom in one of the new buildings, you feel intentionality. You see teachers connecting with students; you see students collaborating with each other; you see spaces designed for specific uses: the TALI Theatre, art spaces, science labs, the Harkness Room. At the same time, you see each of these spaces designed to be flexible and adaptable.
At EPS there’s a consciousness that how we do school in 2019 will be different from how we do it in 2029. If this is not the case, then the people, the culture, and the program will not have evolved. They must.
The accreditation process asks each school to what degree it has been intentional.
EPS RE-ACCREDITATION: THE SELF-STUDY
If you ask an artist about putting together a portfolio, they will tell you it’s partially about the finished product, but predominantly about the constructive and reflective processes a portfolio demands.
Identifying different works or pieces, thinking about how each was created, and what it came to be, affords the artist an opportunity to abstract, to rise above their work and to think about how the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In many ways, the process connected to composing a self-study for accreditation mirrors this practice of abstraction.
In eight-year cycles, independent schools are asked to take a close look at the different elements that compose and support the school program. Central to the process is reflection on this question: How effectively has the school enacted its mission to improve student experience? Phrased another way, the accreditation process asks each school to what degree it has been intentional.
A school like EPS starts a self-study or portfolio process with an advantage. We do not have to dissect an ambiguous mission statement that is a long paragraph of flowery prose and modifiers. We look to eight words to answer one question. Where and how are we asking students to practice thinking critically, acting responsibly, leading compassionately, and innovating wisely?
We ask this question whether we are reflecting on the school program in which students are doing this practicing, or on the business office which ensures that there are facilities, faculty and staff, and other resources that make the student experience possible.
EPS’s self-study measured 188 pages in length, supported by over 100 different appendices. In the context of numerous meetings, surveys, and editing sessions, the school’s leadership, faculty, staff, students, and parent community reflected on the quality of what EPS has become and what we can improve in the future. Ultimately, the study was composed of twelve sections.
- Self-Study Process
- School Mission
- Commitment to Care
- School Program
- Enrollment Management
- Institutional Advancement
- Campus and Facilities
- Health and Safety
- Human Resources
COMMENDATIONS // The visiting team commended Eastside Prep for:
- The degree to which leadership is present and pervasive at all levels of the school community.
- The degree to which students understand the mission of the school and can identify it in their daily experience.
- The obvious culture of collaboration throughout the school.
- The presence of a challenging academic program with a strong focus on, and support of, neural diversity and different learning profiles.
- The success of the school in preserving its culture while managing its growth in population and facilities.
- The degree to which the school’s new facilities (TMAC and TALI buildings) are physical manifestations of the school’s mission, in the way that they are intentional, flexible, and multi-use.
NWAIS VISITING TEAM
After reading the self-study this past fall, a Northwest Association of Independent Schools (NWAIS) reaccreditation team visited EPS to observe how our school’s daily operation reflects its mission and the values of the association.
The team’s charge was to use the lens of the NWAIS school standards to assess the degree to which EPS’s mission was reflected in its programs and culture—to assess the school’s intentionality.
From October 14–17, the ten-person team (some from as far away as Utah) attended classes and meetings; they met with parents, students, faculty, staff, and the school’s leadership; and they found out that meals at EPS are one of our most powerful means of exchange.
Addressing the full faculty and staff in the Hallman Amphitheater at the conclusion of the three-day visit, team chairs Liz Swift and Dr. Percy Abram shared commendations for the school.
Predominant in their address was a commentary on community and culture (rather than structures and systems), two things that are paramount to the EPS experience.
“We commend EPS for the following. Our team observed elements of leadership at every level of the school: in the faculty, in the staff, in the student body, and in the parent community.
This is not common in schools.
We also observed students with a knowledge of the mission and how it applied to their experience in school.
This is also not common in schools.”
Like any effort that is made at EPS, the reaccreditation process was an expression of values. The visiting team’s reflections confirmed that the creation of a better world through critical thinking, responsible action, compassionate leadership, and wise innovation is being realized in the world of our campus.
As mentioned previously, to do school, or anything differently than the cultural norm, one needs to do so with focus and intent. While this might not be common in all schools, it is at Eastside Prep.
Looking at EPS in 2019, Jefferson might reflect that, similar to the American democratic experiment, evolving what school can be is a path and a project, not a destination. For that path and project to be successful, it needs to be done with intention.
NWAIS VISITING TEAM REPORT & EPS RESPONSE
The full visiting team report—including commendations, recommendations, and suggestions—was delivered formally to EPS in February, 2019 after being approved by the NWAIS Board of Governors.
EPS will respond to that report by considering each of the visit team’s recommendations and how they might serve to improve the school.
Above are the remainder of the commendations that the team chairs shared. A copy of the executive summary of the EPS Reaccreditation Self-Study can be found at the following link: