Friday, November 11, 2005
CCHS responds to NEASC recommendations
When the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) issued its evaluation of the Concord-Carlisle Regional High School (CCHS) last spring, the school's accreditation was continued, but qualified with a list of reccommended improvements and a timetable for resolution.
Many suggestions have already been addressed, and work on others is underway. To maintain accreditation, school officials are required to submit a progress report by January 2 describing plans to implement the recommendations. Another progress report will be due from the school in October, 2006.
Besides suggestions for curriculum and assessment, NEASC cited several safety concerns and said the building does not adequately support curricular and co-curricular needs. (Table 1)
At the same time NEASC praised the school, "Although there are still a number of significant challenges ahead for Concord-Carlisle High School, indicators point to the fact that this is a very good school indeed." (Table 2)
Every ten years CCHS is reviewed by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges which is responsible for setting standards in education and accrediting schools. A 16-member evaluation team from NEASC visited CCHS last fall. The visit included tours, 54 hours of classroom observation, a half-day of shadowing students as they attended their classes, reviews of student work, individual talks with teachers, and group meetings with students, parents, administrators and teachers. The team also reviewed the self-study document prepared by CCHS in preparation for their visit.
The NEASC issued its report and issued a summary letter to the school in April. The report is available at the Gleason Public Library in the reference section.
Progress to date
Principal Art Dulong says, "Fifty percent of these recommendations should be addressed by next fall. In five years, we will want to address all the recommendations."
If the NEASC suggestions are rejected or no action is taken on them, the school will need to give very good reasons why they are not complying. Dulong points out that some of the recommendations are out of his hands. For instance, he cannot add space to classrooms, or windows to interior office space. A new building would be needed to address some of the concerns, and he adds, "That is up to the townspeople."
The recommendations can roughly be put into three categories: physical limitations of the building, health and safety issues and the implementation of a better mission statement, rubrics and procedures to evaluate the curriculum.
The limitations of the building are the underlying cause of many recommendations. Some of these include: "Inadequate classroom, office and storage space to support the implementation of the curriculum and co-curricular programs, the size and location of the guidance and special education offices are inadequate to meet the needs of students and professional and support personnel, the lack of windows in the guidance offices, the current practice of four special education teachers sharing a workroom and the lack of an appropriate conference area to hold meetings."
The Special Progress Report will need to address the need to "provide a physical plant that supports the needs of all students and occupants and fully implements the school's mission and expectations for student learning."
A second recommendation in the report is "to ensure that the ramps in the media center meet ADA requirements." Dulong says, "We have a variance on file that covers us as long as the building is in use. The high school opened a year before the ADA requirements came into existence. The school applied for and received the variance." The auditorium also has a variance as there is no flat area at the top of the ramps in that room.
The third recommendation has to do with the fire doors, internal doors that separate different sections of the high school building. These doors must shut properly. Dulong states, "The ones that need to close, do." Facilities Manager Dave Anderson is still working on outside doors, but these are not fire doors. Anderson has also been working on protocols for maintenance, repairs and installation of equipment.
The school was asked to "provide a two-way communication system between all classrooms and other areas of the facility and the main office." Dulong says, "They are in the process of investigating this, getting some cost estimates and trying to figure out the easiest way to accomplish this."
Much progress has been made on other safety and health items. For example, the NEASC visitors noticed some non-operational exit signs and water fountains. All exit signs have been replaced and are now running off battery systems. All water fountains and sinks have also been fixed.
The NEASC report cited ventilation issues in the art and science areas. "The ventilation in the science area has been repaired," says Dulong. "A ventilation engineer has submitted design plans for the art roomIt's a big issue in the photo/dark room area. There's some pretty heavy work that has to be done. We expect to be doing that work during Christmas vacation."
Another goal to be addressed by January has to do with "complying with all federal, state and local fire and safety standards and address all identified issues." The Fire Chief inspects the high school every year. While the high school is not covered 100% by a sprinkler system, Dulong states, "We comply where we have to." Corrosive and explosive materials in the chemistry area are now in fireproof cabinets. Some lockers were damaged or otherwise unusable. New lockers have been put in the locker room. "In August, there were some issues around storage, such as too many things in one area," comments Dulong. "These issues have already been corrected."
The NEASC had safety concerns with the limited storage in the science, music and art areas. "Science is in better shape with the new fireproof cabinets. Also, the teachers did a major clean-out. Things are much better there," says a pleased Dulong. Over the summer, the lockers for instruments were replaced in the music room. The new lockers are specifically sized for different instruments, hence the space is more efficiently used.
For the art department, Dulong says, "We are making changes there. We are trying to buy specialty art storage cabinets that allow for more flat storage." As in the music room, space would be used more effectively and more art could be stored.
Another solvable concern of the NEASC was the overcrowding of the media center (the library) during lunch periods. Junior and senior study halls were being held on the third floor of the media center. They have since been moved to open classrooms, making room for all students who need to use the library during their lunch breaks.
NEASC report says, "The content of the curriculum at Concord-Carlisle High School is intellectually rigorous. and [CCHS] continues as a strong college preparatory high school." On the other hand, "opportunities are limited for non-college-bound students." Specific problems included the lack of honors and/or AP classes in the humanities for juniors and seniors. NEASC said that students cannot take both music and art, and maintain a lunch block. Also, it was noted that there is "little curriculum coordination with the schools of Carlisle."
The last area of recommendations in the NEASC report has to do with the need for a stronger mission statement, a formalized system of reviewing and updating curriculum and evaluating the effectiveness of various instructional strategies on a formal and regular basis. Dulong says, "The heavy work on this will be done next springRight now the curriculum is informally reviewed. Teachers need to document what they do; they are already doing it [reviewing their curriculum]. I think we have a terrific school. Each department has a focus on what it teaches."
The mission statement is emphasized in the letters "C.C.H.S." which stand for Commitment, Citizenship, Harmony and Scholarship.
© 2005 The