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Sustaining Excellence through Action Research

By December 6, 2019December 18th, 2021No Comments
About the Sustaining Excellence Protocol
Under the Middle States Sustaining Excellence protocol, rather than complete a traditional self-study for reaccreditation, leading schools have the option to focus their time, energy and resources on developing, implementing and sharing an action research project for achieving their goals. A key component of the protocol is the requirement for schools to hold a colloquium to share their research results with the broader education community with the goal of improving education on a wider scale.
Notes from the Field
The Academy for Information Technology (AIT) is a small, four-year career academy based in Scotch Plains, N.J., that fosters critical thinking skills in its culturally diverse student population. By stressing intellectual curiosity, hard work, ethical behavior and technological expertise with business integration, the school community guides its students to achieve their greatest potential. The AIT graduate is prepared academically, technologically and interpersonally for the challenges of the future.
AIT earned reaccreditation through Middle States in 2016 under the Sustaining Excellence protocol with the goal of using action research as a framework to develop career readiness skills in students in all grades.
The school posed seven research questions:
  1. What more can be done to prepare our students for careers in business and in information technology?
  2. How can we increase the frequency and efficacy of networking events?
  3. How can we expand the role of school counselors in student career exploration?
  4. How can we increase the frequency and efficacy of structured learning experience?
  5. As a faculty, how can we better integrate business and information technology skills and concepts across the curriculum?
  6. Because business and information technology requires a lifetime commitment to learning, how can we better prepare students to conduct independent, academic research?
  7. How can we expand our relationships with local universities to ensure our students excel at the university level and have the potential to earn college credit?
In setting out to answer the questions, AIT engaged the entire school community, including faculty, administration, members of the AIT advisory board, parents, students, and outside business leaders. As a group, they researched and identified specific areas of focus and adopted an initiative called “Great Schools INSPIRE.”
Working with its stakeholders and guided by action research, AIT implemented a variety of successful plans and programs. Among the highlights:
  • Career events including Statistics Career Day, Novo Nordisk Career Day, Novo Nordisk Field Trip, Bell Labs Guest Teacher, 12 Days of Code, Cyber Security Month, HACKUC III
  • Pre- and post-surveys for interns
  • Adoption of the Career Interest Profiler
  • Development of a student career interest survey
  • Development and incorporation of a presentation rubric throughout the curriculum and across disciplines
  • Adoption of an e-portfolio requirement for all students beginning freshman year
  • Acceptance into the Waksman Student Scholars Program, which provides opportunities for high school students and their teachers to conduct an authentic research project in molecular biology and bioinformatics and publish their findings.
  •  Adoption of AP Capstone program
  • Development of a research rubric to evaluate student research
By developing and implementing a multi-tiered approach to continuous school improvement, based on action research, AIT is building on its success to further prepare its students for a viable future.

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