NJAIS Accreditation Team Comes to Oratory

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Luke Bernstein and Daniel Carvalheiro-Santos

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During the week of November 11th, Oratory Prep was graced with a visit from representatives from the Middle States Association and the New Jersey Association of Independent Schools. Throughout the week, members of this statewide team evaluated the challenging curriculum our school offers, the teachers and their pedagogical skills, and administration and facilities. The team’s goal was to provide feedback on the school, detailing ways it can improve and recognizing Oratory’s virtues. 

Tasked with organizing the accreditation team’s visit, Dr. Elizabeth Acquadro and Mr. William McCrystal worked tirelessly to provide the team with the necessary information and to accommodate the accreditors. Their journey began well over a year ago with the inception of the self-study process. To create this self-study, every member of the staff was involved in writing a portion of the over 100-page report. In this self-study, the faculty evaluated the OP mission and all aspects of the school including the academic programs, the facilities, finances, alumni relations, parent relations, and student life. Without this collaboration, it would have been impossible to have incorporated the voice of everyone in the school. After everyone contributed, Mr. McCrystal and Dr. Acquadro organized all of the work into a cohesive document that promoted some self-reflection among the members of the staff. Dr. Acquadro believes that this self-reflection is crucial for continuous improvement.

Following the three day visit, the team gave their feedback to the entire administration, faculty, and staff on their experiences at Oratory. Although OP will not know the final accreditation status until the release of the final report, overall, the team said they had a very nice visit and commented on how welcoming the students and staff were. They were also impressed with much of what they saw and heard from the members of the Oratory community. After the school hears back from the accreditation team, goals will be set for the future and planning will begin for the next visit from NJAIS in five years. The entire accreditation will last for ten years. 

This was truly a monumental visit to the school, one in which Oratory takes much pride. Dr. Acquadro spoke of the qualifications for being a part of the accreditation process by the New Jersey Association of Independent Schools, saying that, “to be an accredited school by that agency, we have to meet certain standards set forth by the NJAIS association and that the school is living the mission it has set forth.” As emphasized, these impressive accomplishments that allow the school to participate in this process are not something about which every institution can proudly boast. “The goal,” Dr. Acquadro added, “is to set forth goals that will help us improve as a school and to benefit you as students.” For the first time, the school is trying to become accredited by two agencies, the Middle States Association and the aforementioned NJAIS, seeking a dual accreditation. Accreditation, according to the co-Chairs of the self-study process, is a compliance measure but also a means to have an impartial view of the school (via the visit) to identify areas to improve. Oratory is proud to have hosted the agencies during the week, realizing the significance of this process and the studies conducted. 

Besides the fact that teachers were asked to avoid tests, quizzes, and movies, the team was immersed in the students’ regular school day, providing an accurate display of the students’ participation and average curriculum. Other than that, the team wanted their experiences to reflect just another school day so that they can see how Oratory normally operates. They enjoyed interacting with the students, staff, and faculty while they were here. For the students, having members of the team in the back of a classroom was a hot button topic across the grades in the days leading up to the visit. However, once they went through the experience, almost everyone realized that these individuals were here to help the school and there was no reason to worry. In the end, this process represents the culmination of Oratory’s efforts and an endeavor to improve and provide the best education possible; by participating in this project and dedicating hours of time to assure its success, the school is proving its resolve to become the best school it can be. 

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