Involving Parents in Accreditation
RHAM High School - Hebron, CT
“Being involved in the accreditation process as a parent made high school less of a black hole for me, because I could see it from the inside,” says Lydia Abu Rahmeh, a Connecticut parent whose son is a ninth-grader at RHAM High School, a NEASC-accredited school in Hebron, CT. In 2015, Lydia served on one of the school’s accreditation self-study committees, an experience that she says she appreciates. “Getting to know the school staff and witnessing their dedication to kids, depth of knowledge and sense of humor made me feel really confident in my son’s education,” Lydia says.
Lydia and her family moved from Georgia to Connecticut in 2014, just as her son was starting middle school. She joined the RHAM Middle School parent group right away, wanting to get involved in her son’s school and education. As an elementary school educator by profession, Lydia was very familiar with her son’s early education but less certain of how his middle and high schools would operate. “I went to a very small high school,” she says, “so the large size and intricacies of my son’s high school were intimidating to me.” When she received an email asking parents to participate in the high school’s accreditation process, Lydia volunteered, hoping that it would provide her some insight into her son’s education. Having participated in the accreditation process as a teacher in Georgia, she says, “I was familiar with it from a teacher’s perspective, but I had no idea what to expect as a parent.”
Lydia immediately started working with several special education department staff members on a self-study committee focused on the School Resources for Learning support standard. She reports that she spent a lot of time with her fellow committee members reviewing how the school was meeting the standard and brainstorming ways that it could improve, as well as writing and editing their portion of the self-study report and reviewing other committees’ work. When the NEASC visiting team came to RHAM High school, Lydia and her husband attended the Q&A sessions and gave their input. She felt that the educators on the visiting committee were excellent and that they really listened. “They didn’t come in with ‘trying to get you’ attitude,” Lydia says, “but instead focused on how they could be part of the team to help the school improve.”
When asked about the impact of this experience on her own views, Lydia says that she believes accreditation helps school leaders focus on students first and foremost. “The NEASC accreditation process keeps school leaders accountable to the educational community,” she says, going on to explain: “It can be hard for school administrators because of obligations they feel to the school board and budget and the politics associated with both. Sometimes the loudest voice in the room can skew things away from what’s really important, but the NEASC standards and accreditation process helps keep schools focused on what’s best for the kids.”
Lydia also appreciates that the accreditation process includes all school stakeholders. “Accreditation pulls in school leaders, teachers, parents, and the community and pushes everyone to look outside of their own priorities to reassess and improve their work,” she says. Lydia says that her exposure to RHAM High School staff and school leaders during process has been extremely valuable to her as a parent. “I got a lot of peace and security from being involved the accreditation process,” she says, “because I could see that teachers and administration knew what they were doing, that they wanted to be there, and that they were committed to kids and community.”