PSS gets new five-year accreditation with NCA


The CNMI Public School System has obtained another five-year term with its accrediting body and Education Commissioner Dr. Rita A. Sablan attributes this to the fact that “accreditation happens every day in public schools.”

The North Central Association informed PSS on Feb. 20 that it is giving the CNMI a full five-year accreditation term, or until 2020. This makes the system the first institution in the Pacific to be granted a full accreditation term as a school district—including all its schools, central offices, and the Board of Education.

Sablan shared with Saipan Tribune yesterday her elation over this recent achievement.

“Accreditation happens every day in all our schools. The school improvement is a process that is supposedly continuous and that’s what we’re doing as a system. We don’t wait for every year to do our report. If we have specific concerns, we report and address it today…and that’s the beauty about our accreditation under NCA,” Sablan said.

She emphasized that with the accreditation process an ongoing concern in each school’s daily operation, this makes the school district more prepared for the periodic review and visit of the commission.

The North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, or NCA, also known as the North Central Association, is a membership organization consisting of colleges, universities, and schools in 19 U.S. states that is engaged in educational accreditation. It is one of six regional accreditation bodies in the U.S. and its Higher Learning Commission is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

PSS used to obtain its accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, which grants accreditation terms to individual schools. The BOE and PSS decided to shift to NCA in January 2012 and ties with WASC was formally cut in June 2012.

The NCA accreditation process involves five standards and each standard includes a “checklist” of things that need to be achieved. WASC, meantime, has four standards.

According to Sablan yesterday, PSS ranked “very high” in all these standards, resulting in the granting of the maximum five-year term. She specifically cited the overwhelming rating accorded PSS in the governance and leadership aspect as well as the direction and purpose of the system as a whole.

An NCA team inspected PSS on Oct. 4-9 last year. In the team’s exit report, members recommended the maximum term for PSS to the full commission.

Sablan said that PSS and the Board of Education are very pleased with the decision and have vowed to maintain the quality of service it provides to schoolchildren on three islands.

“In any school district there are opportunities to grow and PSS is one that is progressive and always looks for ways to improve and grow,” she said.

According to Sablan, decisions being made each day in schools—whether about resources, staffing, or instructional matters—relate to “accreditation.”

If there are areas that Sablan believes needs further enhancement, it’s the resources and technology.

“The highlight really is: we have a strong purpose, direction, and governance in our system,” she said, adding that the visiting team saw a lot of systematic collaboration where everybody works together, making sure there is alignment from the school level to the central office.

Moneth G. Deposa | Reporter

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