In response to the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Middle States in May 2020 made the difficult but necessary decision to develop a virtual accreditation visit model for schools approaching accreditation/reaccreditation in 2020-2021. Since our launch in August, we are pleased to confirm that 133 schools have successfully hosted their accreditation visit virtually.
Last month, due to the continuing health and safety challenges, the decision was made to continue the virtual visit model for Spring 2021 visits as well.
As the final accreditation visits of the semester conclude, we are reviewing post-visit survey data, conducting focus groups, and putting in place modifications as needed for our 2021 visits.
We received feedback in a post-visit survey from more than half of our team leaders and school leaders, in addition to one-on-one follow up communications with our staff.
The overwhelming feedback from schools was a sincere appreciation for the visiting teams, who volunteered while managing their personal and professional lives during the pandemic. We echo these words of appreciation and applaud both the schools who invited teams into their schools during this time, and the volunteers who shared their time and expertise.
Positive feedback on the virtual visit included:
The process worked- the elements of the accreditation visit were able to be successfully completed virtually.
The efficient use of school resources to host a team virtually instead of onsite, and efficient use of time for volunteers
Visiting Teams liked working with Google Drive to receive information and collaborate on review and writing
Serving on a team became accessible to some people who would not have been able to serve on a traditional visit
Flexibility to visit a school, or host team members, from outside of your geographic regionHowever, there is always room for improvement. Although chairs and school leaders significantly responded that the process worked, several key challenges were identified including:
More coordination time needed than an in person visit
How the required evidence is presented and when it is sent to the team
Being able to complete all the meetings and writing in three days
A feeling of missing out on the potential for more human connection and the unplanned parts of the experienceAlthough we cannot address every concern that makes virtual visits different than onsite, and all of us are missing the in-person human connection with Covid restrictions, we have listened to the feedback from our schools and volunteers and implemented a number of strategies to further strengthen the process.Trainings are in full swing for Spring 21 visits and already more than two dozen schools and volunteers have attended early December workshops to prepare for spring visits. Google Drive folders and materials for all Spring 21 schools were sent last month, ensuring several months of preparation time to upload evidence and organize materials before each virtual visit. We have also committed to adding one additional volunteer to each visit wherever possible to decrease the responsibilities and workload of each team member. And finally, we’ve added additional support webinars and materials for our Chairs preparing to lead virtual visits.
We look forward to a successful next 100 virtual visits, thanks to the ongoing commitment and resiliency of our schools and volunteers!
If you are interested in learning more about our virtual visit process, or finding out more about serving on a Visiting Team, click (here).