NHS adapts to meet accreditation standards

NAUGATUCK — Naugatuck High School is hoping to earn a passing grade as it awaits the results of its five-year review by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).

The association accredits high schools and colleges based on educational standards and current research into best practices.

High school Principal Fran Serratore submitted a five year follow-up report on how the school has implemented 44 recommendations since it was last evaluated in 2006. The high school has been accredited with NEASC since 1946 and is reevaluated every ten years.

Accreditation is an expression of confidence in the quality of education at a particular school. To gain accreditation, schools must submit an application and self-study and host an evaluating committee to assess the school’s merits based on seven standards.

According to Serratore, schools have to incorporate 21st century skills, provide the highest opportunity for every student, have a safe and orderly environment, and put everything towards students acquiring skills that can lead to success beyond high school.

Only one of the 44 recommendations was not completed, according to Serratore. The school is still in the progress of rewriting student expectations for reading, writing, science, math, technology, interpersonal skills and civic responsibility.

Even as the school implements the recommendations from 2006, it has to prepare for its next evaluation in 2016. NEASC updates its standards every year.

“The whole process is an ongoing thing,” Serratore said. “It’s all moving towards trying to address the changing times. The skills that were necessary 20 years ago are not the skills you need today.”

 

The following is a look at the seven areas NEASC looks at when assigning accreditation and what Naugatuck High School has done to improve in each of these categories.

 

Core values, beliefs and learning expectations

To meet this standard, Naugatuck High School revised its mission statement.

The new statement reflects that to compete in the 21st century, students must leave school prepared to pursue further education, whether it be at a four-year college or technical training center.

“High School is not the end,” Serratore said. “It’s the springboard to going on.”

The new mission statement reads, “Naugatuck High School believes that all students have the right to learn in a safe and nurturing environment conducive to maximizing their potential to succeed in our diverse, technological, and interdependent world.  To this end, we join with the home and community to cultivate the skills, talents, and attitudes that will prepare our students not only to continue their education beyond high school, but also become informed responsible citizens.”

Curriculum

The school is in the process of revising its seventh to 12th grade curriculum to reflect 21st century skills, which include critical thinking, decision-making, problem-solving, collaboration, communication and use of technology. The new curriculum is designed to fill in the learning gaps between grade levels, Serratore said. It also includes more interdisciplinary teaching.

“We want to make the curriculum more transparent and connected,” Serratore said.

Instruction

To meet instructional standards, the staff has been trained in differentiation, student engagement, and effective teaching strategies.

Assessment of and for student learning

The school has looked at student scores on state tests to identify weaknesses and adjust the class instruction to fill in gaps. The high school increased the rigor of its classes by eliminating the lowest general track of classes. Now the school offers academics, honors, and Advanced Placement classes. The school also started a pilot program for Capstone projects in anticipation of new state standards which would require students to demonstrate their skills through a final project senior year.

School Resources for Learning

A few years ago, a couple left a donation to the high school, which the school used to pay for new computers and multimedia labs.

To support higher academic standards, the school added a reader/writer workshop, a special education literacy for life program, and hired a new math teacher to help with algebra.

“Some of these students who were on track to fail are now on track to pass because they had that extra support,” he said.

School culture and leadership

The school has a mentor program to connect students and adults. Three years ago, the school created a zone program, which evaluates freshmen every three weeks and ranks them in either the red, yellow or green zone. Students stay after school to get extra help and move up the zones, from the red, to yellow, to green. The school also has an anti-defamation league program to stop bullying and improve how students treat each other.

Community resources for learning

Next year, a branch of the Naugatuck Savings Bank will open up in the high school cafeteria. Administrators hope the bank, which will be staffed by students and available to everyone in the school community, will teach students the fundamentals of financial literacy. The school recently worked with the Mayor’s Cultural Council to present a cultural heritage night that involved students and community members celebrating their various cultures through food, music, dance and art.

“It was successful beyond belief,” Serratore said.