WASC Words International

— Fall 2020 —

Inside this Issue

Accreditation News

  • Personalized International School Visits
  • International School and Visiting Committee Member Training
  • Lessons Learned from Virtual Visits
  • WASC Focus on Learning International Accreditation Manual, 2020 Edition
  • Continuous School Improvement: Using the Schoolwide Action Plan
  • Technology Update: School and Member Portals and Website Redesign

International Staff

  • Dr. Margaret Alvarez to Lead International Accreditation

  • International Staff and Consultants

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ACCREDITATION NEWS

We are concerned and empathetic for those around the world who are suffering as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. We continue to work closely with the schools and members that are part of the greater ACS WASC community to provide support and understanding.

— Barry Groves, President

Personalized International Schools Visits

WASC has been working individually with international schools with upcoming accreditation visits regarding the next steps to ensure the health and safety of all due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Visits were postponed from spring 2020 to the 2020-21 school year and most of these visits are being conducted virtually. If you have questions regarding your school’s upcoming visit or the WASC response to COVID-19, please visit the COVID-19 Update page and the WASC Coronavirus Q&A or contact the WASC office.

International School and Visiting Committee Member Training

WASC continually offers school and visiting committee training for all aspects of the WASC Focus on Learning accreditation process. The training sessions are recorded and are available for viewing on demand. Through our consultants, WASC can also provide customized trainings adapted for your school. You will be notified of upcoming relevant training sessions and you can register for training through the School and Member Portals. If there are questions or requests, please contact Dr. Marilyn George at mgeorge@acswasc.org.

Lessons Learned from Virtual Visits

WASC has quickly adapted its protocols and procedures for virtual accreditation visits throughout the region; this includes joint visits with WASC partners, such as IB and CIS. The visits have been as thorough and rigorous as in-person visits and focused on high-quality student learning and well-being through continuous school improvement. Feedback has been very helpful as WASC continually refines these visits. Throughout this school year, for health and safety, almost all the international visits will be conducted virtually; a few may be hybrid. In the future, WASC plans to incorporate more virtual aspects to many of the visits.


The international consultants have conducted many virtual accreditation visits, including previsits and initial visits. Some of their reflections are shared below.


“One advantage of the WASC virtual visit has been the opportunity to develop relationships and have conversations with the school’s leadership team prior to the actual visit. Our conversations often began with logistical information related to scheduling, technology, and classroom visits. However, interspersed within these conversations we were able to share personalized comments tailored to support the school’s focus on continuous improvement, on the impact of their initiatives on student learning, and on the relationship of WASC’s guiding principles to the school’s work. Through these advanced conversations, the school was able to ask specific questions about the details of the process, about the content of their report, and/or about how to guide the process in their school. These rich conversations informed and deepened understanding between the WASC visiting committee and the school’s leadership team before the actual visit began. In some cases, these previsit virtual conversations seemed to relieve some tension and stress for the school, which might normally be associated with an accreditation visit.”


Other reflections have noted that the teams adapted swiftly to virtual learning. “With each new visit, additional knowledge was learned about conducting a virtual visit, adding more helpful tips and practices. My experience has confirmed it is possible to maintain the rigor of an in-person visit, and that the result remains a focus on overall school improvement and progress toward high-quality learning and well-being for all students. However, some situations simply don’t translate well to a virtual platform. Things such as time for casual, informal conversations; natural, authentic discussions with students about their learning; and stopping in at the office for quick clarification of someone’s job title are difficult to achieve. However, careful planning which allows for flexibility from both the school and the team, and establishing a point person to answer those simple questions has proven helpful. As well, simply acknowledging that a virtual visit IS different and allowing the team to adjust accordingly is equally important.”


Finally, the WASC international consultants have gleaned that care must be taken to ensure that a visit maintain a personal element. As one of the consultants noted, connections with school leadership, staff, and other stakeholders during meetings when the criteria are addressed could become impersonal. The ability to read body language can be lost and the opportunity to follow up and hold individual conversations may not be readily available in a virtual setting. Some suggested visiting team strategies for effective virtual meetings include:


  • Build and maintain a rapport with all participants.
  • Learn and remember the names of the participants and focus on each person and practice “deep listening.”
  • Maintain a distraction-free environment.
  • Dress and present yourself in a professional manner just as you would during an in-person school visit and honor and respect cultural differences and expectations.

  • Ensure the quality of the audio is adequate and everyone can hear and be heard.

WASC Focus on Learning International Accreditation Manual, 2020 Edition

In order to strengthen the areas of child protection, including digital citizenship, and streamline the WASC criteria and indicators, WASC has made some modifications and published a new Focus on Learning International Accreditation Manual, 2020 Edition. The basic structure of the self-study process has not changed in this new edition. Schools may elect to use this updated edition or may continue to use the Focus on Learning International Accreditation Manual, 2017 Edition for the 2021-2022 self-study visit. Both editions continue to focus on high-quality student learning and well-being through continuous school improvement. Please contact Marilyn George at mgeorge@acswasc.org for additional information.

Continuous School Improvement: Using the Schoolwide Action Plan

How can the WASC accreditation process empower a school to have a clear, cohesive, coherent, and meaningful roadmap? The answer lies in the uniqueness of the accreditation process. This results in a “roadmap” owned by all stakeholders that is monitored, reassessed, and modified as progress is analyzed in relation to the impact on student learning and well-being.


Although the accreditation process empowers a school to create a powerful plan, all of us realize that a schoolwide action plan that focuses on student achievement is not a “magic answer” just like one specific program and design is not necessarily an answer. Indeed, the plan is a guide in order to have the following occur:

  • A shared, collaborative focus and commitment to student learning and well-being;
  • Regular reflection and analysis of data-informed progress; and
  • The continuous building of capacity of all to support the desired outcomes.


During these challenging times, as schools review and revise their schoolwide action plans in order to address the current academic and social-emotional student needs and staff needs, there are questions that can be asked to determine if the schoolwide action plan provides the direction and impetus for improved student achievement and well-being. Examples of questions for school reflection include the following:

  • What specific data led to the rationale for each action plan goal?
  • How did we obtain this data and analyze it?
  • Do the action plan goals address the current student learner needs?


Through addressing the schoolwide action plan goals, it is also important to ask:

  • What will be different for the students?
  • What is our visualization of the outcomes?
  • How will we assess the impact on student learning and well-being?
  • Have we integrated the various initiatives into the action plan that directly
    address student learner needs, i.e., staff development and technology?
  • Are resources being allocated to support the implementation and accomplishment
    of these action plan areas?


Asking these critical questions while using the accreditation process can lead to the desired dynamic, purposeful schoolwide action plan that can guide the school community.

Technology Update: School and Member Portals and Website Redesign

WASC is pleased to announce the launch of its newly redesigned website and the release of the review and visit materials for schools and members in its new School and Member Portals.


Schools have their own school portal and key personnel can review their school's accreditation status; find next accreditation steps; register for training; update their school profile and manage key staff; and access the appropriate accreditation protocols and materials. Visiting committees members are able to update their information and navigate through accreditation material. We have moved the accreditation materials to the portals in order to deliver a customized experience for the user. Schools and members will have access to the exact information needed for the particular school and review materials will be easy to locate and submit. We have not yet released the portals to some joint affiliations but will do so in the coming days.


The primary objectives of the website redesign effort were focused on simplifying our content and increasing the visibility of our information. The new website can be translated into a number of languages from the buttons in the footer at the bottom of the website.

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International Staff and Consultants

Dr. Margaret Alvarez to Lead International Accreditation

WASC is pleased to announce the selection of Dr. Margaret Alvarez as the new Director of International Accreditation Services. Dr. Alvarez, currently based in Singapore, will join WASC in the summer of 2021 on completion of her current tenure as Head of School of ISS International School, Singapore. She will replace David Ottaviano who has served as Director of International Accreditation Services since 2017 and will retire at the end of the school year. Click here to read the September 21, 2020 press release.

International Staff and Consultants

International WASC staff and consultants are available to provide accreditation coaching and training in the following areas:


  • Asia: Barbara Parker, based in China
  • Asia, especially Southeast Asia: Stephen Messiah, based in Thailand
  • Japan, Korea, and Taiwan: Alana Steward
  • Africa, Europe, and Middle East: David Ottaviano, based in Italy

David Ottaviano, Director of International Accreditation Services

David Ottaviano joined ACS WASC in July 2017 as the director of international accreditation services. Dr. Ottaviano most recently served as the head of GEMS International School – Al Khail in Dubai. He has extensive experience in school administration and ACS WASC. His tenure as a school head includes ten years as a public school superintendent in New Jersey and 21 years as the head of private, international schools in Serbia, Italy, Japan, Romania, and the UAE. Dr. Ottaviano has served as president of IB North Asia, vice president of East Asia Region Council of International Schools (EARCOS), and chairman of Central and Eastern Schools Association (CEESA). Dr. Ottaviano received a B.A. from Grove City College in Psychology, an M.A. in School Psychology from Montclair State University, and an Ed.D. from Fairleigh Dickinson University in Educational Leadership and Psychology.

Stephen Massiah, International Consultant

Stephen (Steve) Massiah joined ACS WASC in July 2017 as an international consultant working with schools throughout Asia. He is based out of Bangkok, Thailand. Steve comes to ACS WASC after successful positions in international schools in Doha, Qatar; Seoul, South Korea; Bangkok, Thailand; and Hong Kong. Prior to this he was a principal in Toronto, Canada; an adjunct instructor at the Faculty of Education, University of Toronto; and an interim position (secondment) with the Ontario College of Teachers.

Barbara Parker, International Consultant

Barbara Parker has worked in international schools in Southeast Asia, Pakistan, Africa, and the Mediterranean for almost 30 years. She was formerly the director of the International School of Beihai. She recently designed and developed curriculum for several new international schools in China and the Asia-Pacific region, some of which were designed particularly for English language learners.

Alana Steward, International Consultant

Alana Steward joined the ACS WASC team as a part-time international consultant in July 2017. After beginning her teaching career in her native Canada, Alana has been teaching and leading in schools in various countries for the past 19 years. She has traveled extensively with her family and has worked in countries including Macau, Kyrgyzstan, Singapore, Austria, and Japan.

Accrediting Commission for Schools, Western Association of Schools and Colleges

Dr. Marilyn S. George, Executive Vice President
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