GDS goes through a process to affirm its status as an accredited school every ten years. The next accreditation will take place in October 2023, but administrators and other faculty members have already begun compiling the information necessary for the school to qualify.
The decision of whether to award GDS accreditation will be made by the Association of Independent Maryland and D.C. Schools (AIMS). The school is currently in the process of preparing for the accreditation, but the actual accreditation, when AIMS comes to the school to evaluate, will take place next year.
According to AIMS’ website, “accreditation by AIMS signifies a school’s compliance with association standards and its commitment to continuously strengthen educational programs and teaching.” The association’s website also says that the purpose of accreditation is for the school to do an “in-depth reflection” of its programs to make sure that the school’s mission “truly informs every aspect of school life.”
Assistant Principal for School Life Quinn Killy said that accreditation legitimizes the school, and without it, “we probably couldn’t exist in the same capacity that we are.” He said that while accreditation isn’t necessary for the school to function, it is important for its reputation.
The preparation for the process that AIMS will conduct is being led by Associate Head of School Meg Goldner Rabinowitz. She described the accreditation process as a way for AIMS to “check in” on the school as a whole. She introduced the process to the faculty at a meeting in June.
Before the accreditation occurs, the school must gather the documents required by AIMS, which include GDS’ long-term financial plan and a review of its curriculum. Rabinowitz said the review allows AIMS to “get a glance” of the school’s curriculum. She said that AIMS also requires demographic information about current and prospective students and faculty.
Rabinowitz said that after compiling the necessary documents, the next step in the process is a “self-study.” She said AIMS has standards that the school must meet in order to be accredited, which include having a mission statement, having counselors and letting AIMS check in on different offices within the school, such as the admissions and marketing departments.
Heading the process with Rabinowitz is a steering committee composed of GDS faculty. “The steering committee is a group of people who cross-represent all sorts of areas in the school, and they will be the ones who comment on the process,” she said.
The committee works with Rabinowitz and other teachers to create a curriculum review, which outlines classes’ content and how it relates to the school’s mission statement. The committee also will work with AIMS during the final steps of the accreditation.
Middle school instructional coach Jana Rupp described her role on the committee as a representative for the teachers since she works to improve the communication between different departments and the committee. “I’m a connector between all of the different subject areas,” she said.
Rupp said that she and the other members of the committee recently compiled summaries from teachers of their approaches and curricula. The teachers’ responses allowed the committee to understand “what we teach” and “why we teach that,” Rupp said, adding that the process is helpful in understanding how specific lessons relate “to the mission of the school.” She said that she enjoyed working with the faculty because she was able to explore their work and “really articulate on paper what they do.”
Another part of the accreditation process is making sure that students are safe; Killy said that AIMS requires that GDS is able to keep track of students at all times. To meet this requirement, GDS asks students to use SchoolPass, an app that logs when students enter and exit campus.
According to Killy, GDS’ implementation of the SchoolPass system was in response to concerns raised during the last accreditation process. He said that AIMS suggested that GDS might need to remove its open-campus policy if it could not keep track of students during emergencies.
Rabinowitz said that she did not think removing GDS’ open-campus policy was at all a likely outcome of the accreditation. “I don’t see us moving in that direction,” she said.
Five of the six students interviewed by the Bit did not know what accreditation was or what it entailed.
Senior Lydia Kabiri said that she had only heard of the process from Killy when he urged students to use SchoolPass. “We need to find a way to keep people accountable for that, like an incentive,” she said. “I feel like people aren’t doing it.”
Rabinowitz said that she was confident that GDS will be accredited. “We’re not a new school; we have some historical grounding,” she said. “The best outcome is that they come, and they tell us the things that we’re doing great.” She added that the process is helpful going forward “to see some of the ways in which we are not fulfilling our intentions.”