NEASC/IB Accreditation Summary Report - March 2021

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Dear Parents and ISB Community, 

Full International Accreditation requires a great deal of commitment from a school community. It requires a lot of time and effort, along with a willingness to receive feedback, to reflect and to grow. In return, the school becomes truly learning-focused and the community gains reassurance that their school is a high quality institution on a global scale. As the only fully accredited international school in Belgrade, we are rightly proud of our status.

ISB is the Global Pilot School for the new synchronized Accreditation process with both the IB and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). The following is a comprehensive summary of the Accreditation Report from the joint IB and NEASC visiting teams from March 2021.

The actual comments from IB and NEASC are in italics.

We are delighted with our Accreditation report. It clearly shows that, despite all the challenges, ISB students have continued to make great learning progress and that the school continues to move forward as a high quality and well-established international school. 

Please join us for a coffee morning on Thursday April 29 an 10:30am to discuss our Accreditation and next steps for our school. 

Here is the link for the coffee morning


Confirmation of Accreditation:

Dear Andrew,

The NEASC Commission on International Education (CIE) has accepted the visitors’ report subsequent to their virtual visit to your school on March 1, 2021 - March 5, 2021. I am pleased to inform you that the Commission has recognized Candidacy for re-accreditation to International School of Belgrade.

The Commission would like to thank the entire school community for being open to working with the new CLP process. It is evident from the attached report, that ISB is well suited for this collaborative process.

Jeff C Bradley, Director.


Part 1: Background:
The global pandemic has placed inordinate challenges and strains on every school including ISB; however, the positive atmosphere and effective responses to learning needs have enabled the school to not only work well but grow during this time. The strong focus on exploring how to place learning at the center of all discussions and development is certainly seen as a priority for the school even during these challenging times. The Visiting Team would like to acknowledge the challenges and achievements so far and wish the community well for their transformational journey. 

Part 2: Foundation Standards (Finances, Facilities, Policies, Resources, Health and Safety etc):
The school has no major recommendations to address. The school is a well-established school and has the Foundation Standards in place to a very large extent….for the majority of requirements ISB is well established to provide a positive environment for learning. 

Recommended areas for future consideration:

Standard 1: Learning Structure: The development of a definition of learning and what an ISB teacher is… has been a very positive step towards creating a shared understanding of quality learning at ISB. In addition, the school continues to work on the vertical and horizontal alignment of the curriculum. One area of significant importance is the new position of a Head of Student Support Services, who will be able to respond to the needs of students.

Standard 3: Health Safety and Security. The school is in the process of addressing the needs for upgrading chemical storage facilities - but the remote learning needs have impacted the implementation. The same situation is related to the full Risk Assessment processes for field trips. The pandemic has ended any possibility of field trips for the moment, but this must be in place in the near future as life begins to return to a new normal.

Part 3: Curriculum:

ISB is a full IB World School, offering the PYP, MYP and DP programmes.

The units of inquiry for all three IB programmes identify age-appropriate opportunities to develop and demonstrate skills, concepts and content. A continuum articulating manageable and meaningful progression from PYP through to DP is developing.

The curriculum evidences some opportunities for students to inquire into ideas and issues of personal and global significance. There is room for greater focus on what students are doing and how they will be engaged in achieving the objectives of the unit. There was a predominantly didactic teaching approach with content sometimes used as the endpoint rather than the means for inquiry into the concepts.

As part of the Community Learning Reflection phase, the school may wish to consider reviewing the balance of content and concepts in all three programmes.

Lastly, as a component of ISB’s shift towards being a learning-focused school, a comprehensive Learning and Teaching Guide has been created which includes the mission, vision, values and learning definition, and an overview of the learning program. In continuing to develop this resource, the school may wish to consider how the learning programme model could more accurately represent the school’s goals and vision by stating learner impacts rather than curriculum labels. 

Part 4: Shared Understanding of Learning:
The development of the ISB Learning and Teaching Guide has been a very strong move in the direction of clarifying what quality learning is supposed to look like at ISB. While much of the work was accomplished by a team representative of the whole school, the work has not yet been widely engaged with by all stakeholders, so that the definition of learning and what an ISB teacher is, is not yet a schoolwide, shared understanding. The concepts and ideas included in the Learning and Teaching Guide are truly commendable but need to be a part of everyday conversations so they can be enacted and used as the guide it is intended to be.

The next step is therefore to ensure that the excellent work done in defining learning and teaching is shared and engaged with by all stakeholders.

Part 5: NEASC Learning Principles and IB Standards:
It is evident that excellent work has already been done to explore the alignment of the IB standards and practices and ACE Learning Principles. Most importantly, there is considerable understanding and commitment to using the aligned principles and practices as both a tool for reflection, for identifying focus areas for development and for articulating clear statements of impact on learning. This is clearly illustrated by the school’s commitment and creativity to use Diversity, Equity and Inclusion as fundamental concepts with which to frame programme development work, policy revision and continuum strands. 

Part 6: Commitment, Conceptual understanding, Capacity and Competence: 
There has been significant work completed to define learning and what great teaching looks like at ISB, and there have been many involved in the process. As the school says, there is not yet a fully school wide shared understanding and implementation of the related concepts. There is work yet to be done to engage all in the discussions about what this definition looks like in action at ISB, and this should be a focus of discussion and development during the reflection period.

The commitment to a journey of transformation is evident in many of the leadership team and teachers, but a number are not quite sure what the process involves as yet. The work has begun and definitely shows indications of commitment to achieve the desired goals but is not yet fully evident.

Capacity to effect the desired changes appear to be evident and there are many members of the governing body, leadership and staff who have the capacity to implement the developed and shared goals the school is in the process of deciding. One challenge for the school will be to broaden the group of individuals with responsibility and to share the capacity to enact and implement the desired changes.

Finally, the competence to close the gap between where the school sees itself now and where it wants to go, is developing. There are many with individual competencies that will support the process, but as mentioned in the capacity section, it would be helpful for the school to broaden institutional competencies and capacity. The leadership are developing ways to articulate and share with the community the school’s aspirations about learning, and there is awareness of what it is currently, and what might be bumps in the road. 

Part 7: Concluding Remarks:
There is a great deal of positive energy and passion for the transformation of learning at ISB, and much has already been achieved in the journey. The community can be pleased that every area is being addressed and that all areas required for the transformation to be complete are either in place or being well developed. The school is to be congratulated on its achievements during the pandemic and encouraged to keep the energy focused on the ongoing transformation of learning at ISB. 

The Visitors want to thank the community for the warmth of their welcome and the open and honest discussions about how to transform learning at ISB. The school is again commended for their eagerness to take on a new accreditation process - the CLP - during a time of global pandemic, but this just confirms the strength and determination of the community to focus on growth and learning. 

Next Steps (April 2021 to April 2022):
 


 

We are obviously delighted with our Accreditation report. It clearly shows that, despite all the challenges, ISB students have continued to make great learning progress and that the school continues to move forward as a high quality and well-established international school. 

But, it does not stop there. The new synchronized Accreditation process with IB and NEASC is an ongoing reflective process. It is not a series of boxes to be checked and completed, but rather a commitment to ongoing reflection, development and improvement. The next phase in our process is the Internal Community Reflection phase, which will last one year.

We are on a journey from a traditional approach (focused on teachers, teaching and instruction) to a model based around learners and learning (an impact or outcome driven model). A truly learning focused school always looks at the intended learning impact and examines the success criteria of everything it does. IB and NEASC have long had this approach, but now is the first time it has been so central to the whole accreditation process.

For our Reflection phase, we are required to consider the feedback from the Accreditation Report, along with our own observations to focus on a few key areas from the IB/NEASC Learning Principles. For us, these will be:

Key Strategic Goals
  • Being a truly Learning Focused School
  • Becoming Recognized as the Leading School in the Region - a Thought Leader. 
  • Purposefully becoming a Diverse, Equitable and Inclusive community of learners.

DEI will be the lens through which we examine our other 4 Community Reflection Areas below.

NEASC/IB Community Reflection Areas for 2021

Based on the above, our Community Reflection Areas for 2021/22 will be

  1. Empowerment. How do we help students (and teachers), own and lead their own Learning? How do we create true Leadership, Agency and Autonomy for all learners?
  2. Learning Spaces and Time. How do we use time and space to purposefully impact learning?
  3. Future Learning. How do we develop collaboration, real-life programs, problem solving, creativity, entrepreneurial programs, failure, IT, Coding ……?
  4. Whole School Approaches to Learning and Assessment. How do we embed student-centered, inquiry and concept driven learning through the school as the expectation? How do we ensure great progress in core areas?

NOTE: DEI is a 5th Reflection area, but the major lens through which we examine the other 4. 

Finally, I would like to thank our staff, students, parents and Board who all worked to bring us this far in the on-going process. Despite the obvious challenges this year, we all managed to work together to complete our Accreditation report and to host the visiting team in March. A full Accreditation process is an enormous undertaking in any normal year, but the fact that we managed the process so successfully, stands as testament to the strength of our community.

I look forward to working with everyone through the next Community Reflection stage.

With kind regards,
Andrew