Thursday, October 8, 2009

Inspecting Inspections

Here is one other interesting difference in the way we do things on one side of the Pond or the other.  In the U.S. schools are accredited by various independent accrediting agencies. (There are six major ones and the relationship between their standards and the work we do at QISA can be found on our web-site.)  Typically a school will spend the entire year before it is up for accreditation or re-accreditation in a required self-study.  There will be surveys, analyses, committees, vision statement revisions, new program implementation, etc., etc., etc.  I have seen schools consumed by the process and chief administrators working on almost nothing else as a priority.  In the accreditation year, a team of inspectors roles in, clip boards in hand, and takes the school through a process of observations, interviews, and standards review over the course of several days.  That committee will in the end issue a report recommending re-accreditation or some other level of status if "measures" need to be taken for the school to be up to the standards of the agency.

In the UK, the accrediting agency is known as the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) and conducts all inspections.  A school typically gets a day or two notice that an inspection team is coming.  There is no extended self-study other than one that is meant to be ongoing and on file.  Inspections are a surprise.  The administrators and teachers get a little notice to shape up the paper-work, the inspection team comes in and conducts their observations and interviews, and three weeks later the school receives a report.  The most effective schools are always on their toes for an Ofsted inspection.

The comparison is an interesting twist on classroom observations.  Typically, when there is a planned observation, teachers are able to put their best lesson forward.  On the other hand, if observations are unexpected, they may capture a more accurate picture of a teacher's preparation and performance.  Both methods for teachers and for schools have their pros and cons.  However, if what we are after is a true picture of a teacher or school's abilities, then the element of surprise may be a better approach.

1 comment:

Marty Foley said...

My school is going through the self-study this year and as time-consuming as it is, I have to say the process is an extremely healthy one. Perhaps a hybrid of the once a decade version in the US combined with the occasional unexpected visit in the UK would blend the best of both.