The Richmond Register

February 13, 2013

County schools re-accreditation recommended

Action by AdvancED would be good for five years

By Crystal Wylie
Register News Writer

MADISON COUNTY —

Madison County School District has been recommended for accreditation by a 15-person external review team of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

The association is an accreditation division of AdvancED.

The accreditation is “the most rigorous” outside look at the district, lead evaluator Dr. Vicki DeMao said during a presentation to school and district staff Wednesday at B. Michael Caudill Middle School.

“Some accreditation processes are just paper reviews. This one is a little risky because you’re inviting us to look through your drawers —well, your dresser drawers,” DeMao added jokingly after a few snickers from the audience.

AdvancEd is used in all 50 states and 56 other countries, she said. “These are international standards. We have the same standards here as they do in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Japan and China.”

The assessment was based on 35 indicators, according to DeMao. “If a school district does these things well, the likelihood of their students having higher achievement is much greater.”

During the review, school staff completed a self-assessment of district standards and indicators.

The 15-person external review team, comprised of education leaders from five states, also performed an assessment based on the 35 indictors.

Student performance results were considered, and interviews were conducted with stakeholders, such as students, teachers and parents.

Review team members made 123 classroom visits and interviewed two school board members, 30 administrators, 134 teachers, 17 support staff, 97 parents and 140 students.

AdvancED standards are rated on a scale of one to four. However, the standards “are only related to rubrics in the (accreditation) system” and not any other form of grading system or assessment, DeMao said.  

Dr. Michelle Reynolds, Fayette County’s district assessment coordinator and one of the review team members, stood up to explain.

Fayette County participated in the pilot accreditation review process using new AdvancEd standards last year.

Each of the 35 indicators had sub-descriptors, she said, and a difference between a score of “2” and a score of “3” is whether the indicators are occurring in “most” or “all” classrooms, schools and systems in the district.

“When you think about it that way, to get to that ‘all’ and that level of ‘3’ is a major process,” Reynolds said.

Madison County scored 2.25 in Purpose & Direction; 2.5 in Resources & Support Systems; 2.25 in Teaching & Assessing for Learning; 2.4 in Using Results for Continuous Improvement; and a 3.0 in Governance & Leadership.

“I can tell you, in most reports I have read, I very rarely see a ‘3’ or more … ‘3’ is pretty high,” DeMao said.

The district also received seven learning environment ratings: Equitable Learning Environment, 2.7; High Expectations Environment, 2.8; Supportive Learning Environment, 3.1; Active Learning Environment, 3.0; Progress Monitoring and Feedback Environment, 2.7; Well-Managed Learning Environment, 3.2; and Digital Learning Environment, 1.8.

“This doesn’t mean that you don’t have technology,” DeMao said of the Digital Learning Environment score. “We would rate (the district’s) technology higher than this.”

But, if the observers did not see technology being used in the classroom during a 20-minute observation period, they were forced to give a grade of “1,” she added.  

Promising practices

DeMao spoke about “promising practices” the review team observed in the district.

The team called Superintendent Tommy Floyd “a visionary leader.”

“He has initiated and supported a variety of programs and services available to students who need additional help to meet academic expectations of the district such as: Middle College at Eastern Kentucky University, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, the PASS program for reducing the number of suspensions, GEAR UP grants and partnerships to encourage college and career readiness, and the Early Childhood Alliance to promote readiness for school success, to name a few,” the report said.

During school visits, the review team noticed “a clear sense of pride in the schools reflecting an atmosphere that fosters positive relationships among all stakeholders … caring, dedicated and committed staff who believe in their students and work continuously toward student improvement.”

“It was amazing to me in a very large elementary school, that a principal actually knew the names of the students who were passing by. That’s highly unusual. I wanted to point that out,” DeMao said.

The report stated “principals have established a strong collegial atmosphere among themselves, as well as within their buildings. Parents and staff reported that teachers support children and the school community as a family.”

The report also noted a “positive school environment” reflected in buildings that emphasize safety, security and the health of the students.

Required actions

The review team also outlined four “required actions” which the district must take.

One is creation of long-range district processes, or a district-wide strategic plan, “in which stakeholders revisit the vision and mission of the district and include specific, measurable goals and on-going monitoring processes for quality assurance.”

“The business community does this all the time, and we need to look at this model in school districts,” DeMao said.

Another requirement is the creation of a local comprehensive evaluation process for current programs and any new initiatives to determine their effectiveness.

“Right now, we think that you have some data on some programs,” said DeMao, “But we really need you to be strategic in the way you evaluate programs and say:‘This one is worth the money we’re spending on it or this one isn’t working out as much as we thought it would, and maybe something we need to abandon.’”

The report also mandates beginning a “systemic written process” that will ensure professional learning needs are met at all levels and a “systematic process for analyzing assessments … to adjust classroom instruction on a consistent basis.”

What happens now?

AdvancED/SACS expects the district and schools to share information in the report with all stakeholder groups, to develop a process to address the required actions over a two-year period and to complete an accreditation report on the district’s progress at that time.

The district will be expected to implement “successful processes and practices” before the next five-year accreditation cycle.

In 30 business days, the district will receive a 30-page, in-depth report on the 35 indicators, DeMao said.

There are five levels of accreditation, she said, and they will not know Madison County’s level until the AdvancEd Accreditation Commission grants accreditation and status in mid-March.

Crystal Wylie can be reached at cwylie@richmondregister.com

or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.