“Reflect and Improve” – The ISAS Self-Study Process
Rob Wise

Read about The Joy School’s reflective journey through our current reaccreditation process for the Independent Schools Association of the Southwest.


At The Joy School, one of our “culture tiles” – 20 set expectations we hold for both staff and students to keep us united in purpose – reads “Reflect > Improve” with the arrows pointing back to create an ongoing feedback loop of improvement for our school. One way we are currently upholding that expectation is through our self-study process for the Independent Schools Association of the Southwest (ISAS).

In 2011, The Joy School became the first specialty school in Houston to be granted accreditation through ISAS; and prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, we started our reaccreditation process for our ten-year self-study and evaluation. Little did we know that this process would be interrupted by the pandemic!   

In the tenth year of accreditation, schools perform a rigorous self-study to evaluate adherence to standards and ongoing operational and programming needs; and to perform a “qualitative analysis, reflection, and identification of action for school improvement” (ISAS). The documentation of standards involves the collection of school data, statistics, policies, and written material, including the parent and school staff survey data that was administered prior to the pandemic.

ISAS offers schools two types of self-study processes with which to engage, and The Joy School has decided to undergo what we perceive as the more personalized, innovative self-study. Because we are so unique in our approach to education, the standard report and self-study is limiting. Our adaptability in addressing the needs of children is one of the many ways TJS differentiates itself from other schools, and as a result, our self-study will be better suited to what we do.

We began the self-study with full staff participation to talk about “where we are”, “where we want to be”, and “how we are going to get there” in four groups – Faculty and Staff Support, Data Progress and Reporting, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and Community Service/Partnerships. Through open and honest conversations and many meetings, we have performed a deep dive into our 2018 Strategic Plan, ISAS survey data, information and perceptions from other schools and individuals, and our own experiences at TJS and elsewhere.

While the results of the self-study are being collated and refined, we are proud to say that we have outlined a strong plan for TJS moving forward. The level of engagement from our faculty and staff in having hard conversations about The Joy School and where we need to go in the future has been nothing short of impressive, and we have been energized by the opportunities for improvement. Our staff have worked collaboratively to gain more understanding about who we are as a school, learning from each other and letting shared wisdom and experience drive our process forward. We are excited to start the work of executing our plans over the next several years, our future site visit by ISAS, and demonstrating “how school should be” as a model for other institutions. 

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