An emphasis on competency education tops a list of goals developed by a committee that is planning for an accreditation review of Lawrence High School.
Four of the seven goals identified by the school's North Central Evaluation Committee call for all students to demonstrate minimum competency in math, reading, writing and social studies.
The other three goals are for students to demonstrate the acquisition of study skills, to demonstrate improved conduct in school and to demonstrate improved attitudes toward school.
The seven goals, which the committee developed earlier in the month, were presented to several members of the school's staff on Wednesday.
Trish Bransky, who chairs the high school's North Central evaluation committee, said the goals represented the new "outcomes accreditation" process recently introduced by the North Central Assn.
North Central is one of six non-governmental, not-for-profit associations across the country that accredit public schools, universities and colleges. North Central, which has headquarters in Tempe, Ariz., and Chicago, is the largest of the six and accredits schools in 19 states.
NORTH CENTRAL first endorsed the outcomes accreditation process in 1988 as a means to make schools more accountable for correcting any weaknesses.
Under the traditional procedure, Bransky said, LHS administrators worked on a report that included details on almost every aspect of the school, from how many teachers had master's degrees to how many books were in the library.
But in outcomes accreditation, school staff members are to identify areas they would like to improve, and the staff then works on programs to reach those goals.
"It makes the school look critically at the outcome instead of the inputs, and that's what we're after," Bransky said.
Another difference is that the new accreditation process is repeated on a four-year cycle instead of the traditional method's seven-year cycle. LHS is now developing its accredition plan in the first year of that four-year cycle.
LHS Principal Brad Tate said that under traditional accreditation, "You do it one year and put it to bed for six years." The new process, on the other hand, "gives your school direction for the next four years," he said.
BRANSKY SAID the next step would be to appoint staff members to seven committees to study each of the goals. Those committees will further define the goals and work on developing ways to achieve them.
School administrators say they are already making progress in developing ways to achieve the minimum-competency goals. For about three years, the school has been working with Kansas University staff in developing a minimum-competency test for math, writing and social studies.
As for determining students' reading competency, the school has considered using a minimum-competency test designed by the state.
According to Bob Taylor, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, the district eventually may require that students pass those tests before being allowed to graduate.
Taylor said the district would have to take painstaking measures to make sure the students had been taught all material included in the tests. Thetests also would be administered early in high school, either in ninth or 10th grade, to allow non-passing students to take courses that might help them in taking the test a second time.
The school could offer special courses or tutors for students who didn't pass the test initially.
AT ANY RATE, Bransky said, "I think we would have an obligation to make an effort to remediate."
LHS also is considering a way to help students with the writing section of the test. Currently in the planning stage is a writing lab for the school's library, which would tutor students in all stages of the writing process, teach word processing skills to facilitate writing, and help students with applications for college, jobs and scholarships.
The plan calls for more than $9,000 worth of computer hardware and software equipment and for the lab to be staffed throughout the day and during some evenings.
The writing lab eventually could evolve to teach study skills as well.
"Maybe similar means would be effective for two different goals," Bransky said. "That would certainly be great."
As for the evaluation committee's other goals, Bransky said the school had some problems with the conduct and attitude of students. However, she said, those problems are not overwhelming.
"The bottom line in all this is helping a good school get better," she said.
In a talk with Tate on Wednesday, several Lawrence school board members were surprised to learn that one potential target area that the evaluation committee had rejected was at-risk students.
However, Tate said, "If we take care of those things we want to work on, we'll really be addressing at-risk students."