Who are the ISACS?

Emily Bernhardt

A woman approached my friend and I as we were walking down the stairs. She did not appear to be a teacher that I knew of, so I was surprised when she immediately said, “Could I talk to you about your school?” After the two of us agreed, she asked, “So, do you like Latin?” and, “What are your favorite parts of Latin?” She told us that she was assessing our school as a member of the ISACS, a group that had been mentioned during a recent gathering. This woman’s broad, direct questions took my friend and I by surprise. Our encounter left me wondering what exactly the ISACS were and why they had chosen to visit our school in particular.

After a three minute google search and a conversation with freshman dean, Ms. Wells, I learned that the ISACS, or “Independent Schools Association of the Central States” is a, “membership organization,” that assesses many different independent schools throughout the Midwest. Over the course of four days, their representatives roamed our school’s hallways and took notes in middle and upper school classrooms. This evaluation process occurs so that the ISACS administration can determine whether our school is, “all that we claim it to be.” Latin must meet the ISACS “core criteria” in order to be considered an independent school and their visit is supposed to help them decide this. Ms. Wells elaborated, stating that the ISACS, “…come in to see what areas we are good at and what areas we need to improve.” Assessors also ask students and teachers specific questions to get a feel of Latin’s environment.

But can the ISACS get an accurate read on our school when there are so many different classrooms, students, and teachers that they must take into consideration? Ms. Wells says that they, “…don’t come in blind”. The association does research and prepares before they arrive at Latin. The school also gives them information prior to their assessments. However, Ms. Wells explains that, “You can only really assess so much when the students are on their best behaviors.” Many agree with Ms. Wells, reporting seeing the atmosphere of their classrooms change when someone from the ISACS enters. Because of their authoritative and unknown presence, the classroom tends to quiet down and kids work to be on their “best behavior”, as they were told to be during gathering. Though often preferred, our “best behaviors” aren’t exactly realistic. However, in one of of my classes, students did not seem to care that an ISACS representative had entered the room. As the representative took notes, students were as loud or louder than they were before. In fact, I did not even notice the ISACS member until they left, further proving the disinterested tone that the students have towards them. The reactions towards these new, adult figures is entirely based on the personalities of the students in each class, making the ISACS observations even more difficult to authenticate.

One freshman pointed out another factor that may effect the ISACS’ judgement. They stated that, “Every day is different and every week is different,” proving that the results that the group records will not correctly represent our school, since they are taken within a relatively short time frame. Stephanie Racker agrees with this statement, she says that, “Although I respect the ISACS program, I feel that its difficult to judge a school based on only a week of observing classes.” Latin has so much to offer, from their amazing facilities to their dedicated staff, but the ISACS have only four short days to see all of it.

From what I have gathered, it is safe to assume that the ISACS do not see our school in the way that students and teachers are able to on a daily basis. However, their evaluations are important (and required) and the members of the organization work hard to make them as accurate as possible.