ST. JOHN’S MILITARY SCHOOL, SALINA, Kan. (November 18, 2015)- A four-member AdvancED External Review Team descended upon St. John’s Military School, November 15 to 17. Lead by Dr. Kristin Sherwood of Wichita State University, their aim was to conduct a diagnostic process to stimulate and guide continuous improvement focusing on: impact of teaching and learning, capacity of leadership, and use of resources.
The AdvancED External Review process results in recognition of powerful practices, opportunities for improvement, assignment of an improvement priority for the next accreditation cycle, an index of education quality score, and a recommendation for accreditation.
The team of educators interviewed SJMS stakeholders including administration, technology staff, teachers, cadets, parents, and support staff. External Review Team members also examined student performance results, instructional quality, learner and family engagement, support services for student learning, curriculum quality and efficacy, and college and career readiness data. Areas of specific strength at SJMS recognized by the team include the following themes:
• Strong academic focus
• Strong social focus
• Individualized plans for students
• Communication among stakeholders
• Personal relationships with students and parents
• Intentional culture based on family
• Institutional culture and identity
• Strong support for administration and staff
• Strong support for growing leadership capacity
• Distributed leadership is effective
• Strong support for direction and purpose
• Desire to be proactive in meeting challenges posed by growth in enrollment, infrastructure, and curriculum changes
• Career and college planning is priority
During the briefing at the conclusion of the accreditation visit, Dr. Sherwood pointed out that normally, visiting teams recognized one Powerful Practice. The team identified two Powerful Practices at SJMS.
1. A strong emphasis has been placed on engaging families in their child’s education and social development. Creative, effective, and diligent means of communication between the school and home facilitate parental involvement and promote confidence in the school’s ability to educate the whole student.
The school communicates with parents in a variety of ways on a regular basis through notes, progress reports, emails, telephone calls, the website, and the online parent portal. On-site visits by parents are used to build a network of support among the parents as well as an opportunity to discuss academic goals. Parents expressed appreciation for the efficacy with which their communication with the school is consistently handled and for the accessibility of all staff members. The Parents Association is active and supportive of the school’s mission despite the great distances that many families are located from the school.
It was strongly articulated to the External Review Team that the administration, teaching, chaplain, and military staff not only communicates well with the parents about the child’s academic and social development but also that they are quite successful in partnering with parents in communicating important life skills. The school has built a strong bond of trust between themselves, their students, and parents. This trust has created a student-centered community that translates into students’ achieving academic and social success.
2. The school has designed a formal structure and various programs whereby each student is well known by at least one adult advocate in the student’s school who supports his educational and social experiences.
A formal structure is in place to ensure advocacy for all students. Adult pairings are in place through programs such as the Moms’ Club and the Academic Advisor Program. In addition, the presence of an on-site chaplain and military advisors who act as “dads” at night provide spiritual, social, and emotional support through many different avenues that facilitate the boys’ growth into confident young men.
Through small populations and the intentional focus on developing a family atmosphere, teachers take opportunities to get to know their students on a personal basis and build long lasting relationships. These programs give personnel the avenue to establish meaningful relationships with students, allowing everyone involved to participate and nurture a strong and lasting rapport that benefits student performance.
Additionally, the SJMS learning environment was found to be active, equitable and well-managed with high expectations for students. St. John’s Military School ranked in the top range of scores of all AdvancED Network Schools in all areas including Teaching and Learning Impact, Leadership Capacity, and Resource Utilization.
To remain accredited through AdvancED, schools are reviewed in five year cycles. After three days of extensive examination of data, and interviews with stakeholders The External Review Team has recommended to the AdvancED Accreditation Commission that St. John’s Military School earn the distinction of accreditation by AdvancED for a five year term that expires June 30, 2020.