Confucius is credited with once saying: Learning without reflection is a waste, reflection without learning is dangerous.
This very succinctly sums up why schools, earnest in seeking to improve, choose to participate in self-studies and accrediting projects. It is only in taking the time to look within that we can move forward to becoming better. Self-studies offer schools and educators an opportunity to face the truth or ‘brutal facts’ of the current situation and find a way to make positive changes.
During the school year, 2011 – 2012, Saint John’s Elementary School is participating in not one, but two self-studies in order to enhance the curriculum and its delivery to our clients – the students.
While the school wide Council of International School accreditation process examines the alignment of our entire school to our own mission statement, the IBO/PYP evaluation process focuses solely on the Elementary school to ensure the ongoing quality and sustainability of the Primary Years Programme. This evaluation is mandatory for all schools offering this curriculum framework, and occurs every five years for a well- established school such as Saint John’s Elementary School.
Beginning in the Spring of 2010, the Elementary staff began the self-study process by creating a number of study groups to examine the alignment of our practice, here at St. Johns, against the standards and practices of the IBO – PYP organization.
What are standards and practices?
The IBO provides all PYP schools with a set of criteria against which both the school and the IB can measure success in its implementation. The school must make a commitment to work towards meeting all the standards and practices and creating action plans towards achieving those which might be in need of improving.
On an ongoing basis, through this current school year, the Elementary staff members will meet regularly to review documentation supplied by the IBO for discussion. Supporting documents, according to the guidelines given by the IBO, must also be gathered and submitted along with the report. It is through hours of honest discussion, analysis of data, collection of evidence and more collaborative exchange that the Elementary staff will finally arrive on a decision for scoring the standards and practices against what is really happening in our classrooms each day.
The elementary school has now embarked on this process of self –study, to which all those involved in the organization and the programme should contribute. During the month of October, several groups of stakeholders – students, parents, administrators, and board members – will be invited to respond to questions examining all aspects of school life affected by the PYP.
Once the self-study is completed and all the evidence is collected, a report will be sent to the IBO. The responses to the questionnaire will be used to inform the evaluation visit and will be incorporated into the evaluation report sent back to the school.
In late February, 2012, a visit by members of the IBO, as well as experienced PYP educators will take place here on our campus. The visit normally lasts two to three days, depending on the size of the school. The main focus of the visit will be interviews with those in the school responsible for developing and implementing the PYP and with students participating in the programme. Parents and representatives from the governance may also be interviewed. Short class visits form a part of the evaluation process. This information will make up the evaluation report for the Elementary staff to use as a ‘mirror’ of what is achieved each day. The evaluation report will contain commendations, recommendations and matters to be addressed based on the school’s achievements according to the standards and practices.
It is once this report is received, that the real challenge begins. What we learn from this reflective process and how we use the information to discover more about ourselves, our work and our school program is crucial to putting together action plans for school improvement. The Elementary teachers are committed to being life-long learners and they recognize that ‘Learning is like rowing upstream: not to advance is to drop back.’ ( A Chinese saying)