Excellence By Design

Girard College is an accredited member of the Middle States Association Commissions on Elementary and Secondary Schools.

Every seven years, in accordance with our membership with MSA, we conduct a full year of reflection and formal self-study. This process will be documented on this page throughout the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years.

If you are interested in learning more about Girard College’s accreditation process, please contact Cannie C. Shafer, Director of Accreditation and Assessment.


Student Smile

Spring 2021 Update - Accreditation Completed!

Dear Girard Community members,

I am proud to report to you the results of our school’s Middle States Association Accreditation 2021. WE PASSED!

Thanks goes out in particular to those who served on committees, both large and small ones; to those who were exemplars of teaching; to those students, families and staff who participated and took the time to fill out surveys; to those who were interviewed; to those who gave tours, or who helped with writing and researching for the Self-Study report.

Due to the extraordinary circumstances of life during a pandemic, our Middle States “visit” was mostly virtual. The educators who make up the Middle States visiting teams are not paid workers; they are teachers, administrators, heads of school and staff members who are volunteers from other member schools of the Middle States Association. They accept the assignment to be on our team and to complete the accreditation process with us. The staff and faculty heard an oral report after the Team Visit to learn that we had passed. Their report will be given to the Middle States Association commissioners for ultimate approval in the next few weeks.

Girard College is now accredited again for a cycle of seven years, but the “process” is really not something we ever finish! We have formulated a new plan for ourselves to accomplish if we are to live up to the examples and expectations of best practices. Our 3 Rs must now be to “review, revise and reform.” We will be thinking strategically, gathering data, asking for feedback, meeting the challenges of the day and striving to fulfill our mission.

Listed in the Fall/Winter report below, are the Three Objectives we have chosen for this new Plan (2021-2028.) Each objective starts with a baseline and projects to an end target. Each has specific steps, responsibilities, resource allocations and measures for success for each year over the seven-year cycle. Middle States will check back in with us in three years, at the “Mid-Term,” to see how we feel we are progressing and to lend support to our efforts.

The first two objectives are about potential Student Performance growth and improvement. We have focused on goals for all students in Math and English/Language Arts skills and testing levels. The third objective is called an Organizational Capacity objective and challenges us to build a stronger way to serve our students and to grow the graduate we aspire to produce. This is to be a coordinated program, for Grades 1-12, across academic disciplines but also across all aspects of school life in order to ensure that our students can “live a life of purpose.” The focus is divided into three components:

  1. The academic discipline of History/Social Studies,
  2. Character Development and Social/Emotional Skills,
  3. Social Impact. Girard graduates will be problem solvers who possess a social conscience that calls them “to fight for a just and equitable world.”

You will hear more soon about the who, when, what, why, where and how of the specific steps of the Plan. Now our real work can begin, together!

With appreciation, and Hail Girard!

Cannie C. Shafer
Director of Accreditation

Fall & Winter 2021 Update - Objectives and Virtual Visit

We are happy to report our progress as we complete our work and get ready for the Middle States Accreditation visit!

Once we analyzed our survey results and followed the protocols of our chosen accreditation process called “Excellence By Design,” we were poised for the challenge to think strategically and make a plan for our future growth and improvement.

Various committee members worked to prepare objectives that revolved around specific areas of student performance and also the depths of the school’s organizational capacity. In January, as required by the Middle States Association, we submitted a draft of our three selected objectives and the work we had completed on our Foundational Documents (The Mission, the Core Values and The Profile of a Graduate) for “Technical Review.” I am pleased to report that we “passed” on the first go-around! This permitted us to take the annual targets we had set for ourselves for the next seven-year accreditation cycle, and to keep working to develop action plans to accomplish our goals.

The three objectives are listed below:

Student Performance – Objective #1
By the year 2028, Girard College students will demonstrate improved proficiency of Math standards and academic growth in mathematical skills.

Student Performance – Objective #2
By the year 2028, Girard College students will demonstrate improvement in grade-specific reading levels and improved academic growth in English/Language Arts skills.

Organizational Capacity – Objective #3
By the year 2028, Girard College will have implemented a coordinated program (Grades 1-12) which will inspire a new generation of students to “live a life of purpose that will impact the world.” The outcomes of this program will be the measure of students who become creative problem solvers with a social conscience to fight for a just and equitable world. This objective has three components: a.) Academic, b.) Character and Life Skills, c.) Social Impact

Our deadline is fast approaching to have those action plans completed and to send the official document with all the supporting required evidence to Middle States. The document itself will be around 250 pages and there are 15 appendices filled with documents. The Team will review all of this material and will visit with all classes and school community members. We have been assigned our visiting team of six, with a chair who is from the Philadelphia area and the others who have teaching and leadership positions in a variety of schools (NY, MD, NJ and PA) but particularly boarding schools. Our visit dates are Tuesday, March 16 – Thursday, March 18. This will be a “virtual” visit and once we have more details about what that will “look” like, we will inform everyone what can be expected.

Hail Girard!

Cannie C. Shafer
Director of Accreditation and Assessment

Summer 2020 Update - Developing the Plan (Phase V)

The Accreditation Planning Team worked in small “action plan” groups throughout the Summer months using the revised Foundational documents and the data gathered to focus us on the creation of goals for the growth of our students and for the school in general.

We must direct our focus on the two kinds of goals for this Middle States accreditation process; ones that revolve around specific student performance and others that concern the depth and breadth of the school’s organizational capacity. Once selected, these goals require a great deal of attention to detail. A seven year plan must be created with actionable steps and the measures and assessments necessary to achieve each goal and to provide the proof of our success.

Members of the action plan groups are still working on various parts of the goals including the baseline measures. Some of these assessments can only be set once we have students back at Girard and can be tested in class. We are working to meet our November 1st deadline to submit our rough draft to Middle States Association in a procedure they call a “Technical Review.” It is actually a great opportunity for us to receive profession coaching and insight on how we can best serve the school. Sometimes a school will do several technical reviews to be best prepared for the actual accreditation meetings. We are still “on target” for our Accreditation Visit sometime in late January or early February. MSA is also responding to the COVID-19 situation and is adjusting visits to be a hybrid of a virtual visit or an on-site visit. We will update you about our final goals and plans as we complete the Technical Review.

Courage has become our theme and our watchword. As the Accreditation Planning Team reviewed our foundational documents, we defined and revised our Core Values. Courage was described for members of the Girard community to:

  • Develop self-discipline
  • Persevere through adversity and remain steadfast in the pursuit of goals
  • Reframe setbacks as opportunities for growth
  • Stand up for what you believe and express self-advocacy

Courage will continue to be our “North Star” as we navigate through these challenging times, supporting each other and remaining committed to “ensure every student the opportunity and the means to achieve excellence and preparation for advanced education through purposeful academic and residential programs.”

Hail Girard!

Cannie C. Shafer
Director of Accreditation and Assessment

April Update - Completing Phase IV

During the past month in the life of Girard College, we have witnessed enormous change, challenge and opportunity. We are amid a world-altering event and all of the effects are yet to be known.

We feel reassured, however, that we have the capacity to transform our educational delivery and to continue to fulfill the mission of Girard College. During April, the full Accreditation Planning Committee worked in sub-committees, as is expected by the Middle States Association. We continued to analyze the data we have gathered through the three large surveys and we conducted two internal surveys with faculty and administration to review specifically the curriculum, instruction and the methods of assessment to measure student achievement.

Despite our virtual reality this past month, we remain on target in our work. In the months of May and June, the Committee’s goal is to construct the objectives, based on the data, that will become the structure of our Plan for Growth and Improvement. We must also tackle the task to determine how the process of planning for continuous growth and improvement will be institutionalized. Our ultimate “Plan” becomes an instrument of accountability, to be implemented and then followed through to completion, during the expected time frame.

In the spirit of learning and citizenship, we know that our community will emerge with new strengths as we move forward through this time. Best wishes for good health to all in our Girard family!

March 2020 Update - Community Surveys Completed

The Accreditation Planning Committee wants to extend a large “Thank You” to all of you who showed your support by participating in the Middle States Association Accreditation surveys. This was completed just prior to the school’s transition to a virtual learning model (3/17/20), due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Survey Participation

Students: 95%
Staff: 71%
Families: 51%

The data gathered from these surveys was analyzed separately and as an aggregate to help the school do its self-assessment. The assessment aligns with the 12 Middle States Standards for Organizational Capacity as well as for Curricular and Instructional commitment, in order that Girard to be considered a school of excellence, and worthy of accreditation. Proudly, this is Girard’s 92nd year as an accredited institution!

It is the expectation of the accreditation process, undertaken every seven years, that we self-assess, self-reflect, think strategically and then formulate a plan with objectives and action steps. Our next task in the process, this Spring, is to develop “The Plan of Growth and Improvement.” We will keep you informed as we move along. Please do not hesitate to reach out to the members of the Accreditation Planning Committee with any questions!

February 2020 Update - Our Foundational Documents

We are happy to announce that our Foundational Documents are ready to share with the community! As we detailed last month, the Accreditation Planning Committee was challenged with reviewing, revising and reaffirming our school’s Foundational Documents, which include:

We are most proud of the expanded belief statements that accompany our Core Values. Please note that one of the values (Self-Discipline) has been refreshed (Courage) to better reflect the ideals shared and fostered in our Girard community and modeled by our founder. These statements will be messaged throughout the community so that we can model them in our daily interactions with students, families, and each other. We hope that you will be proud of your school, excited to discuss our present experiences and to dream about our future.

So What’s Next?

All Girard faculty and staff, current families, students in grades 3-12, and young alumni from the classes of 2013 – 2019 will be asked to complete an electronic survey provided by the Middle States Association. This is required of all constituencies in the school, to be a self-reflection, in order that we can measure how we are preforming against best practices but also against the goals we have set for ourselves. The information gathered will be anonymous but will inform the committee for the direction of our next educational plan for Girard’s growth and improvement.

January 2020 Accreditation Update

The Accreditation Committee has been working hard during the months of October, November and December to accomplish our first critical task. The Middle States Association challenges schools to review and then revise and reaffirm their “foundational documents.” These documents include a Mission Statement, Core Values and a Profile of our Graduates.

This process purposefully demands healthy dialogue among the representatives on the Committee and recommits the present generation to a continuum of learning that our founder set in motion. We need to be assured that we are a current, relevant and meaningful educational institution that will form and change the lives of our students. We must commit to develop our graduates to be “fit citizens” wherever they are, and that they have the skills and abilities to accomplish whatever they set out to do!

The Committee has submitted its recommendations for our revised Mission Statement, our Core Values and our Profile of our Graduates to the Board of City Trusts committee that will review and approve our recommendation. Meanwhile, the Committee moves on to the data gathering phase. We look forward to providing our next update soon.

Accreditation Announcement September 2019

Dear Girard College Community,

An important part of Girard College continuing to be a venerable institution is that we aspire to improve the quality of education, not only here but in the United States and the world. Girard is an accredited member of the Middle States Association Commissions on Elementary and Secondary Schools. The MSA is a network of schools in the US and internationally that provide a network of resources for the promotion of standards and proven practices in education.

Every seven years, in accordance with our membership with Middle States Association, we conduct a full year of reflection and formal self-study. 2019-20 is that year. We are asked to select one of the two protocols to guide our process and we have chosen “Excellence By Design.” We will follow the procedures and guidelines of the protocol and work with our new Strategic Plan as our compass.

Next year, we will have a team of volunteers from other MSA member schools form our Visiting Team with a chairperson. That small team will collaborate with us, review our self-study and make their recommendation to MSA that we successfully meet all 12 of the MSA accreditation standards. We will also have demonstrated that we have adequate plans for our objectives for improvement and growth. Most importantly, I believe, is that we assure there is a solid, dependable and uncompromising structure in place which undertakes ongoing institutional evaluation so that our plans become reality.

Our calling as professional educators is to understand fully everything that goes into the culture of a school and the art and the science of instruction and learning. We must keep ourselves current and relevant because we serve children who must be able to live the future well, and as Mr. Girard hoped, they must also be able to be productive citizens.

I look forward to keeping you up to date and informed about the progress of the accreditation self-study and our work for the ongoing improvement and growth of our school.

Hail Girard!
Cannie C. Shafer
Director of Accreditation and Assessment

Accreditation Planning Committee 2019-20

  1. Amber Alexis, Dean of Residential Life
  2. Sylvia Bastani, CFRE,CPC, Vice President of Advancement and Strategic Partnerships
  3. Dr. Lisa D. Belfield, Director of Data Strategy and Impact
  4. Stan Bobowski, Managing Director of Education
  5. Kymelle Clark, Dean of Counseling and Student Affairs
  6. Corey Durkin, High School Faculty
  7. A.J. Ernst, Dean of High School Academy
  8. Tim Farward ’93, Alumnus
  9. Brandon Herbert, Assistant Director of Admissions and Enrollment
  10. Tara Pelosi, Elementary/Middle School Faculty
  11. Justice Ricketts ’20, President of Student Body
  12. Emma Rivers, Administrative Assistant for Accreditation and Assessment
  13. Lucille Seals, Parent ’24
  14. Cannie Shafer, Director of Accreditation and Assessment
  15. Bernard Smalley, Esq., Chairman, Board of Directors of City Trusts
  16. Jon Tucker, Vice President of Operations
  17. Clinton Walters, Controller, Girard Estate
  18. Dr. Heather Wathington, President of Girard College
  19. Dr. Michelle Williams, Academic Dean of High School, 11th – 12th