AESD Accreditation

In 2005, the Washington State Legislature shifted the responsibility for school accreditation away from the State Board of Education. In April 2006, the AESD Executive Board established an accreditation program that authorizes the AESD Executive Committee to accredit schools on its behalf using the previously-approved accreditation process.

Rick Anthony, ESD 113 Board, serves as chair of the AESD accreditation committee. Other members include: Barbara Peterson, Puget Sound ESD Board and Larry MacGuffie, North Central ESD Board, who are the AESD representatives for this process. Helene Paroff, Assistant Superintendent for NorthEast Washington ESD 101 and Kathy Shoop, Assistant Superintendent for Northwest ESD 189, are the ESD coordinators.

See AESD Schools for a list of schools accredited by the AESD Executive Committee. See AESD Accreditation PowerPoint for information shared at the 2011 AESD Conference by workshop presenters.

AESD Accreditation

“Our districts who have been through the AESD accreditation process share readily that the AESD accreditation program is a not an “add-on” or “something additional that they have to do”, but a practical process that makes sense, that is an enhancement to their current work.”

“Building principals report often that this is the first accreditation process that is directly aligned with the School Improvement process already underway in their districts and their buildings. One of our Principals noted that his staff appreciated the fact that the accreditation was not only insightful about needed changes, but provided important validation for the good work already underway!”

“This AESD Accreditation process has been important for us as an ESD as well as it gives us the chance to walk-alongside our districts and gain a much deeper understanding of the challenges they face as well as the important ways we can assist them.”

“The ESD Accreditation process is not a new layer added onto your plate. The process is blended with your school improvement plans. It is a snap shot of what has happened in your building, what is working in your building, and where are you headed next?”
~Don Beazizo, Concrete High School

AUTHORIZING ENVIRONMENT FOR AESD ACCREDITATION: In the mid-1990s, the State Board of Education, who had responsibility for accreditation, started to work with the ESDs to build a process for accreditation that focused on the State Improvement Plan (SIP) process. In both the 2006 and 2007 sessions, the Washington Legislature limited SBE accreditation authority. Upon request of numerous schools, the Washington State Association of Educational Service Districts (AESD) elected to offer a voluntary option for accreditation that retained the focus on the School Improvement Plan and process.

THE CURRENT PROCESS: The current accreditation process, now open to school buildings at all levels, uses a voluntary, self-study process that requires collaboration and deep reflection by the school community starting with the review and validation of the building or district School Improvement Plan. AESA Accreditation sets in place a long-term vision for a performance based educational system.

The first step in the process is for a school or district seeking accreditation to contact their ESD. ESD staff members meet with the school leadership team to describe the process and expectations. ESD staff then provides ongoing support to the leadership team to develop or identify documentation for the review. At the close of the year-long process, the ESD team conducts a site visit to review progress. Following this visit, the ESD staff makes a recommendation to the AESD Accreditation Committee, and schedules an opportunity for the team to make a presentation to the Committee. A favorable outcome results in a six-year approval, with a required third-year interim review.

CURRENT STATUS: Since the ESDs became involved in doing this accreditation work, 40 schools have sought accreditation and an additional nine schools are scheduled for review this spring. The majority of schools seeking accreditation are high schools, but Manson School District in Chelan County chose to accredit both its elementary and secondary programs.

WHAT WE’VE SEEN and WHAT WE PROPOSE: Our AESA Accreditation process provides a collegial, collaborative and rigorous process that takes into account those state and federal mandates our schools are required to meet. As noted above, districts that have gone through this process comment that this is not an ‘add-on’ but is a process that aligns with the efforts for improvement they are currently undertaking.

The AESA Accreditation Committee has seen very powerful presentations in the last two years alone, including all the high schools in the Everett School District and last year five of Bellevue’s high schools: the remaining ones are scheduled for review this year, among other exemplary programs. The AESD Committee has been so impressed by the caliber of the work brought forward for review recently that we are recommending making the accreditation process and review outcomes more visible. Everett and Bellevue high school principals used the accreditation process to significantly improve the quality of their programs. One of the Bellevue Schools alerted the committee that they were submitting an i3 grant, becoming the only Washington recipient of this prestigious grant and one of only 49 in the nation. It occurred to the Committee panelists that the competition among smart peers as they completed their accreditation process resulted in exemplary program outcomes for these districts. The Committee would like to be able to promote and showcase these outcomes.

As a result, the AESA Committee requested and received additional funding in the Accreditation annual budget to cover the costs for supporting this work. We will use those funds to expand the website so that the exemplary documents and strategies that come forward in these accreditation reviews are available for other schools who are interested in becoming accredited. The strength of the AESD Accreditation process is in our ESD staff’s local knowledge of state and federal planning requirements, their knowledge of research best practices, their ongoing work with these districts and our use of the SIP required already of schools.
The Committee has recommended tightening of accreditation documentation, posting summary documents on the AESD Accreditation Website, and using information gathered from exemplary schools to provide a guide to other school districts throughout state and region. We hope to present this program at the annual AESA conference, as we believe that a similar accreditation process in states across the nation will strengthen the AESA network, while we provide exemplary services to our districts.

~Barbara Peterson, PSESD and
Helene Paroff, NEWESD 101