In response to the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Middle States Commissions on Elementary and Secondary Schools made the difficult but necessary decision in May 2020 to develop a virtual accreditation visit model for schools approaching accreditation/reaccreditation in 2020-2021.
Since the launch in August, 133 schools have successfully hosted their Middle States accreditation visit virtually.
Because of continuing health and safety challenges, the Commissions decided to continue the virtual visit model through the end of the school year and more than 100 schools are scheduled to host their teams virtually.
As the final accreditation visits of the semester concluded, the team at Middle States reviewed post-visit survey data, conducted focus groups, and put in place modifications as needed for our 2021 visits.
The overwhelming feedback from schools indicated a sincere appreciation for the visiting teams, who volunteered while managing their personal and professional lives during the pandemic.
Feedback on the virtual visit included:
The process worked- the elements of the accreditation visit were able to be successfully completed virtually.
The virtual visit was an efficient use of school resources to host a team virtually instead of onsite, and an efficient use of time for volunteers.
Visiting teams liked working with Google Drive to receive information and collaborate on review and writing.
Serving on a team became accessible to some people who would not have been able to serve on a traditional visit.
The virtual visit allowed for flexibility to visit a school, or host team members, from outside of your geographic region.
However, while chairs and school leaders overwhelmingly responded that the process worked, they also identified a number of areas for growth and improvement.
In response, the team at Middle States implemented a number of strategies to further strengthen the process, and trainings for Spring 2021 visits began in full swing in early December.
Already more than three dozen schools and volunteers attended workshops prior to the winter break to prepare for spring visits.
Google Drive folders and materials for all Spring 2021 schools were sent in November, ensuring several months of preparation time to upload evidence and organize materials before each virtual visit.
Middle States has also committed to adding an additional volunteer to each visit wherever possible to decrease the responsibilities and workload of each team member. Team Chairs have also been provided additional support webinars and materials to help them prepare to lead virtual visits. To learn more about the Middle States virtual visit model or to attend a training session, visit www.msa-cess.org.