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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

WASC committee discusses ideas for school improvement

As part of the recertification process of California high schools, a team of administrators, parents, teachers and students have been working to prepare for the spring 2014 Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) review. This effort is led by assistant principal Kevin Mount and math teacher Audrey Warmuth. 
“[This is an] opportunity for our school do a self-evaluation and identify areas of growth to guide our guide-setting process for the next few years,” Mount said. 
According to senior Anushree Dugar, a WASC student representative, WASC has the potential to bring “big changes” to the school. For example, 12 years ago, the WASC self-assessment helped lead to the implementation of a partial block schedule, Dugar said. 
In late September and early October, the committee split into groups to discuss five areas, including school culture, curriculum, assessment, instruction and leadership, she said.
In her school culture group, Dugar said the main points raised have included trying to increase interactivity through field trips and alternative modes of grading such as projects and participation. 
“We want to change the ways teachers assess students,” Dugar said. “It’s the difference between ‘doing’ school and actually learning.” 
Suggestions include having students sign an honor code to reduce the cheating culture and abolishing pluses and minuses on letter grade, said senior Jennie Werner, another WASC student representative.
The school is also looking at more ways to incorporate instructional technology in the classroom to be more contemporary and improve the school’s academic climate, Mount said. 
“We’re constantly working on creating and sustaining an environment that mitigates student stress,” said Mount. “[We want to make sure] sure [that] if they’re taking five AP classes, they realize there’s a tradeoff, in terms of your mental health.” 
Senior Priyanka Krishnamurthi, another member of the WASC team, has been working within the assessment group to analyze the academic rigor of the school. 
“At our school, everyone wants to succeed and students work their hardest, but it goes overboard,” Krishnamurthi said. “It’s learning versus grades.” 
Her group has discussed ways to standardize some courses so that different teachers teaching the same class are providing students with a similar experience. 
This goal, she hopes, can be accomplished through teachers in the same department collaborating with each other on class materials.
Dugar, Werner and Krishnamurthi said they have found being part of WASC fulfilling.
“It’s my last year. This is my chance to make changes for younger students so they can have great experiences,” Dugar said.
 
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