WASC reports positively, focuses on fixing academic disparities

    Member of the WASC Visiting Committee Mary Ann Shapiro talks to the staff during the WASC meeting today in the Media Arts Center atrium. "I don't think I've been on a more respectful or responsible high school campus, and I've been doing this for a very long time," Mary Ann Shapiro said. Photo by Takaaki Sagawa.

    WASC Visiting Committee member Mary Ann Shapiro talks to the Palo Alto High School staff during the WASC meeting today in the Media Arts Center atrium. “I don’t think I’ve been on a more respectful or responsible high school campus, and I’ve been doing this for a very long time,” Shapiro said. Photo by Takaaki Sagawa.

    The Western Association of Schools and Colleges Visiting Committee reported many strengths in Palo Alto High School’s community and curriculum, but recommended minimizing the achievement gap and aligning courses for homogeneity at the WASC Evaluation Meeting today.

    According to the evaluative WASC Report of Findings, strengths in the Paly curriculum include successfully implementing a block schedule, using technology to improve learning and preparing students for college through rigorous classes. Many of these findings matched the evaluation in Paly’s 516-paged self-study report. The WASC Visiting Committee also praised the community for offering curricular and extracurricular activities that create specified experiences for students, providing adequate financial support, creating connections and working passionately and enthusiastically.

    However, the committee stated that some critical areas of improvement include reducing the achievement gap for underrepresented minority groups by providing access to rigorous classes, developing a plan to increase knowledge in order to align standards and continuing to improve communication in the community.

    Overall, the WASC Committee lauded Paly and its achievements.

    “It’s not that often that I can come to a WASC and feel the energy in the faculty pursuing and stepping into a new change,” one of the WASC Visiting Committee members said to the staff in the meeting. “You have all the capacity, all the energy, all the knowledge to move forward to really, as your superintendent said, be a stellar mark in the nation of what to do for students to deal with the whole student.”

    WASC Coordinator and Spanish teacher Emily Garrison and Principal Kim Diorio embrace after the positive WASC report. Photo by Takaaki Sagawa.

    WASC Coordinator and Spanish teacher Emily Garrison and Principal Kim Diorio embrace after the positive WASC report. Photo by Takaaki Sagawa.

    Paly WASC Coordinator Emily Garrison expressed her excitement over the successful report.

    “I am very, very, very happy with the WASC visit,” Garrison said. “They really did what they needed to do, which was to validate our work, validate our self-study and also push us to that next level in ‘How can we improve and do even better than what we already have planned?'”

    With this in mind, Garrison recognizes the areas in which growth is necessary.

    “Our action plan was very comprehensive, very good, but [there are] a couple of small things [changes] that we’ll do,” Garrison said. “The hard work now really starts. It’s the next six years of where Paly is going to go.”

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