WASC Words International

Spring 2021

Inside this Issue


  • Equity Statement
  • Stay Connected with WASC on Social Media
International News
  • WASC Focus on Learning Guiding Principles
  • Action Planning — Our Best Friend during a Crisis
  • The Santa Maria or the Titanic: Focus on Learning Self-Study Task, Updating the Action Plan
  • Lenses based on the WASC Focus on Learning Guiding Principles
  • Personalized Support for International Schools
  • Update on Child Protection and Safeguarding Expectations
  • School and Visiting Committee Training

  • Diversity Survey
International Staff
  • Welcome Dr. Margaret Alvarez
  • International Staff and Consultants
  • WASC Mission Statement

Equity Statement

An Equity Statement was adopted at the recent WASC Spring 2021 Commission meeting. The Equity Statement can be found on the WASC website.

Click here to read the Equity Statement.

Stay Connected with WASC on Social Media

Stay connected with WASC and help us boost our presence on social media! Follow, like, or connect to our accounts by clicking on the links below. If you're already on social media, don't forget to tag WASC in your posts!




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WASC Focus on Learning Guiding Principles

The WASC Guiding Principles are embedded within the Focus on Learning (FOL) process and reflected in the WASC Cycle of Quality. The WASC Focus on Learning’s Guiding Principles and practices are intended to be integral to a school’s continuous improvement process of examining where the school is, what is effective and where the school is going. As WASC has seen, if these principles are well-established at a school, the stakeholders are able to adapt to unexpected situations while focusing on the school’s vision, mission, and schoolwide learner outcomes. These Guiding Principles enable a school to demonstrate:

  • Total involvement and collaboration of all stakeholders
  • A culture of collaboration that nurtures and supports the well-being of all students
  • Accomplishment of its vision, mission, and schoolwide learner outcomes, including global competencies
  • High achievement of all students based on the desired outcomes: schoolwide learner outcomes, global competencies, academic standards, and major student learner needs
  • Use of multiple ways to analyze data about student achievement, including student and staff perceptions/interviews, examining student work, and observing students engaged in learning
  • Evaluation of the program effectiveness in relation to 1) impact on student learning based on desired outcomes: schoolwide learner outcomes, global competencies, major student learner needs, and academic standards; and 2) meeting an acceptable level of quality in accordance with the WASC criteria
  • Alignment of prioritized findings to a schoolwide action plan focusing on student achievement
  • Continuous improvement and accountability.

Focus on Learning is not an event; “it is a way of thinking and being” that culminates in an updated schoolwide action plan or roadmap that enables the following to occur:

  • A shared, collaborative focus and commitment to student learning
  • Regular reflection and analysis of a data-informed process
  • The continued building of the teaching and leadership capacity of all.

Examples of key questions that need to be asked to ensure the schoolwide action plan provides the direction and impetus for transformation with emphasis upon student learning include: What analyzed data led to the rationale for each action plan goal? How will student learning and well-being be impacted by the implementation of the plan … one year, two years, and three years from now?

Below are further reflective thoughts on the power of the schoolwide action planning process as a roadmap in challenging times.

Action Planning — Our Best Friend during a Crisis

In the midst of enormous change and uncertainty, having a tool that helps bring a sense of control over an ever-evolving educational landscape is paramount. At WASC we believe that the action planning process, a cornerstone of the WASC accreditation process, is key in bringing a sense of organizational security, in helping prioritize projects amongst competing demands and in building positive shared community experiences through focusing on a school’s purpose.

The WASC action planning process, a dynamic mechanism, leading from a deep analysis of the learning environment, consists of regular reviews and an analysis of the effectiveness of work undertaken. As a result, the process offers schools an opportunity to lay out their development needs and prioritize them or adjust them according to the needs of the moment. It assists in bringing a sense of coherence to the learning environment in the midst of growing complexity (Fullan and Quinn 2016). It also offers an opportunity to capture those excellent opportunities for growth that cannot be tackled straightaway but ought to be addressed when more pressing demands are over. Importantly, action plans help inject positive energy into a learning community by rallying teachers, parents, board members, and students around a common cause and purpose, “the why” (Sinek 2011) and, in doing so, the process buoys us as we navigate the ongoing pandemic.

Robust action planning, focused on continuous school improvement, has always been the cornerstone of a successful WASC self-study. Currently, its importance has reached new heights.

Sinek, S. (2011). Start with why: How great leaders inspire everyone to take action. New York, NY: Portfolio.

Fullan, M., & Quinn, J. (2015). Coherence: The right drivers in action for schools, districts, and systems. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

The Santa Maria or the Titanic: Focus on Learning Self-Study Task, Updating the Action Plan

The Schoolwide Action Plan: Now What?

  • Design and Plan: What should be continued? What should be modified?
  • Implement, Monitor, and Refine: Is it effective? What should be refined or changed?

"Revise or create a comprehensive schoolwide action plan that will drive achievement of the desired outcomes: confirmed major student learner needs, schoolwide learner outcomes, global competencies and academic standards. Establish a continuous improvement process to monitor implementation and accomplishment of the schoolwide action plan.” (FOL, Task 5)

Effective ongoing school improvement pivots around collaborative conversations and study through the WASC Focus on Learning International 2020 self-study process (Tasks 1-5) that reflect the WASC Guiding Principles. Completing each aspect of the self-study effectively is similar to charting and navigating a course for a ship carrying a precious cargo.

The first four tasks guide the school in identifying where the shoals, strong currents, favorable winds, deep water, and sandbanks are located. The results allow the school to plan the direction or course to guide the school’s journey. The WASC Focus on Learning also supports the school in choosing a different course when winds like “COVID” come seemingly out of nowhere rather than feeling rudderless and uncertain about where the school is headed. Understanding these concepts prepares a school to discover new worlds (Santa Maria) to reach its destination (accomplishing the identified goals).

Lenses based on the WASC Focus on Learning Guiding Principles

The WASC Focus on Learning accreditation process has a number of lenses through which a school conducts a reflective self-study:

WASC Guiding Principles
  • School vision, mission, schoolwide learner outcomes, global competencies, academic standards, and major student learner needs
  • Multiple sources of data and information: student achievement, staff, and school needs
  • WASC research-based criteria and indicators
  • Self-identified schoolwide areas of strength
  • Self-identified schoolwide areas for growth
  • The schoolwide action plan.

These lenses are repeatedly interchanged, as a school self-evaluates programs, procedures, and processes to answer the overarching questions: What do we believe? Who are the students? What exists? Is it effective? How do we know? The reflection and application of these lenses bring into focus a prioritized Schoolwide Action Plan that focuses on the priority areas that need to be addressed to support high quality learning and well-being of all students, the “Now What.”

Personalized Support for International Schools

WASC international consultants provide personalized continuous improvement support and service to schools at all points along the continuous improvement journey. The standards, process, and practices comprising the WASC Focus on Learning are solidly based on research findings that lead a school along the pathway of continuous improvement. Through offering personalized consulting services and training, the WASC international consultants work in partnership with a school to support the school in being able to manage its own continuous improvement journey. The personalized support offered through the international consultants and through the WASC Focus on Learning process guide a school in developing and strengthening the school’s collaborative analysis and synthesis thinking. Consequently, the school builds its skills in:

  • Measuring and evaluating student academic, personal, and social-emotional growth
  • Identifying major school and student learning needs
  • Designing, implementing, and monitoring action plans that address identified needs.

WASC recognizes and anticipates that schools will be at different points along the continuum of the continuous improvement journey, including application and implementation of the Guiding Principles and evaluation of their progress toward WASC international standards. The WASC Focus on Learning process is designed for schools at any point on the continuum, and international consultants offer personalized service and training to help schools make the process their own.

Update on Child Protection and Safeguarding Expectations

WASC has been a member of the International Task Force on Child Protection (ITFCP); the Accountability Committee has updated the original expectations to guide schools. The overall goal of these expectations is the following: “The school has defined policies, programs, systems, procedures, responsibilities, and training, approved by the owners/governors, that demonstrate the school’s commitment to safeguarding and preventing harm to children and to responding appropriately if children are harmed or if allegation of harm to children are made.” These expectations have been divided into four categories:

1) Policies

2) Personnel and Responsibilities

3) Programs and Training

4) Procedures, Systems, and Environment.

WASC and other accrediting agencies have used these expectations to further refine criteria/indicators and processes regarding child protection and safeguarding. (See Focus on Learning International 2020.) WASC has also refined what documents, policies, and procedures should be submitted for the initial application process. A few examples include: internet usage, safety, and emergency policies and procedures, including external threats; abuse and neglect policies and procedures, including a definition of child abuse; criminal background checks and procedures for current and potential staff; more specific complaint policies and procedures; and a code of conduct for employees.

In addition, WASC is further reviewing and refining the criteria/indicators in the social/emotional area with respect to age-appropriate formal child-protection/safeguarding curriculum. This includes topics such as bullying, peer-on-peer abuse, personal safety, physical abuse, digital citizenship, disclosing abuse, student voice and agency, and systems of peer and adult counseling.

School and Visiting Committee Training

WASC regularly provides training throughout the region for the international schools and chairs and members through conferences such as EARCOS, ACAMIS, and at school site locations. WASC staff members are readily available to provide individualized training. During the 2021-2022 school year, WASC will be offering virtual training, and, if possible, in-person training later in the school year. WASC will also provide office hours or chat rooms to serve schools and members for all aspects of the accreditation process. Training now includes strategies for hosting or serving on virtual or hybrid accreditation visits. Soon, WASC will send to all schools and international members the basic schedule of trainings for the 2021-2022 school year.

Diversity Survey

In conjunction with International Schools Services (ISS), the Council of International Schools, and the Center for International Education at George Mason University, the Diversity Collaborative is conducting a survey to collect baseline data about the gender and cultural diversity of teachers, heads of schools, leadership teams, and board members in international schools. The survey closes on May 25, 2021.

Share this link to complete the survey: http://bit.ly/DivCollabSurvey3

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International Staff and Consultants

International WASC staff and consultants are available to provide accreditation coaching and training.

Welcome Dr. Margaret Alvarez

The new Director of International Accreditation Services, Dr. Margaret Alvarez, will join WASC on July 1, 2021. Dr. Alvarez is currently based in Singapore. She will replace Dr. David Ottaviano who has served as Director of International Accreditation Services since 2017 and will begin serving as a part-time consultant. Click here to read the September 21, 2020 press release.

David Ottaviano, Director of International Accreditation Services

Africa, Europe, and Middle East

Dr. David Ottaviano joined 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 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

Asia, especially Southeast Asia

Stephen (Steve) Massiah joined WASC in July 2017 as an international consultant working with schools throughout Asia. He is based out of Bangkok, Thailand. Steve comes to 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

Japan, Korea, and Taiwan

Alana Steward joined the 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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Our Mission

A school’s goal is successful student learning; each school has a clear purpose and schoolwide learner outcomes; and for ongoing school improvement, each school engages in collaborative self-reflection and analysis to assess progress in achieving its mission, vision, and schoolwide learner outcomes.