Praising the Coweta County School System as an example that other school systems can emulate, a team from the AdvancEd accreditation organization reported to the Coweta County Board of Education Wednesday that they will recommend a renewal of Coweta Schools’ five-year accreditation.
Though unofficial until a final report is issued by AdvancED, the accreditation team’s exit report gave the Coweta County School System high ratings.
The scores are “the highest I’ve ever seen,” said AdvancED Lead Evaluator Dr. Steve Oborn, referring to indicators used to evaluate the school system’s educational programs, leadership and management of resources.
To watch the AdvancED team’s exit report go here (http://viewpure.com/DbxuFteyZHk?start=0&end=0)
AdvancED provides accreditation services to over 32,000 institutions serving 20 million students worldwide, and the Coweta County School System’s scores on the review were significantly higher than the average results from recent school accreditations, Oborn said.
His team’s evaluation results “indicate that the school system is performing well above acceptable ranges as compared to expected criteria as well as other institutions in the AdvancED network.”
The exit report was delivered to board members and assembled school leaders at the system’s Central Offices on Werz Industrial Boulevard, during a 4:00 p.m. called Board of Education meeting on Wednesday. The report came after a three-day review of the school system by an independent team of expert evaluators, led by Dr. Oborn.
Oborn said that his team’s report will refer to the Coweta County School System as an “exemplar” system, because of the high levels of the system’s educational programs, planning and management practices, as well as the thoroughness of the system’s application for re-accreditation.
“What we saw was incredible,” said Oborn. “Not just based upon our rubrics, but a plethora of years of experience of many of us who have been around a lot of this.”
Superintendent Steve Barker and Board Chairman Frank Farmer thanked the AdvancED team, and thanked students, teachers and staff, parents and community members who participated in the three-day evaluation.
“I am proud of you” Dr. Steve Barker told principals and system leaders Wednesday, after the team’s report. “I’m proud of this community and of your schools and our school system.”
In a letter to all Coweta County School System employees on Thursday, Barker thanked them for their hard work, and congratulated them on the AdvancED team’s findings.
“You have exceeded the expectations of expert evaluators, and your work has created opportunity for our community and for our students,” said Barker. “I want to extend my heartfelt appreciation to each of you for your service to our students and to our community.”
“You are the best – and an outside team has proven it through this review,” Barker told employees.
This is third time that the Coweta County School System has applied for system-wide accreditation, which covers all of the system’s schools and programs. The system is currently under the second of its five-year system accreditation periods, which ends this year. The renewed accreditation sought by the school system would span a period from 2016 to 2021.
The AdvancED team visited 65 classrooms in 17 schools as a part of the review, including Arnco-Sargent, Atkinson, Brooks, Canongate, Elm Street, Jefferson Parkway, Moreland, Ruth Hill and White Oak Elementary Schools, Arnall, East Coweta, Evans, Madras and Smokey Road Middle Schools, East Coweta and Newnan High Schools, and the Central Educational Center Charter and Career Academy.
The team also reviewed a comprehensive set of evidence covering data from all Coweta schools and programs and interviewed 537 school system stakeholders, including the superintendent and six board of education members, 185 instructional staff, 46 support staff members, 183 students, and 65 parents, community members and business leaders.
From their interviews of students, parents, teachers and community stakeholders, Oborn reported words and phrases that were heard multiple times, including “family, “student-centered,” “caring,” “rigor,” “safe,” “excellence” and “exceptional,” among others. Oborn also noted several representative comments that his evaluation team reported back from stakeholders, including “I would not want to be anywhere else,” “Graduation is a K-12 experience,” and, multiple times, “We are a family.”
Oborn said that the team developed a thematic statement that they believed described the Coweta County School System: “A passionate and caring school system dedicated to excellence, energized by the notion of family, and committed to the success of each student.”
AdvancED reviews school systems for accreditation using five standards for quality which examine if schools and school systems show evidence of stable governance, management and leadership, provide students a coherent course of study, employ reliable systems by which to assess students’ progress, have instructors who have a clear understanding of what they aim to teach, how, and why, and that the system provides schools access to the resources they need.
Oborn stressed that the evaluation team rated the school system very high in all categories. They specifically cited the school system for excellence in curriculum, instruction, and student, assessment, and providing services that support all students throughout their educational careers.
The team specifically cited the school board for ensuring that schools and system leaders have the autonomy to meet goals for achievement, and for providing excellent fiscal oversight and resources that support educational programs and system operations. The team noted that the superintendent is recognized in the school system and community for promoting a culture of shared values and beliefs about education that promotes a notion of family and success.
The Coweta County School System prepared for this week’s visit by collecting thousands of documents and other pieces of evidence to demonstrate how schools and the system are meeting standards, holding internal reviews, and surveying school system stakeholders, among other efforts. Dr. Karen Barker, Coweta County School System Curriculum Director, and Dr. Therese Reddekopp, Instructional Services Director for Coweta Schools, led the school district’s reaccreditation effort. Preparation began over a year ago.
“Really, it began five years ago, when AdvancED was last here and left us with their evaluation,” said Reddekopp, who noted that the school system has continued to evaluate schools and the system each year using AdvancED standards, and used the standards to develop a new system strategic plan over a multiple-year period.
“I am very proud of our district and our schools,” said Barker. “We know we have a good, strong school system, but it is very gratifying to hear that through a process like this. Getting a great report back like this from independent experts gives us invaluable feedback.”
A final report on the accreditation effort is expected back within 30 days. The visiting AdvancED team consisted of Dr. Oborn (lead evaluator, and a retired Ohio educator and school system administrator), Billy Heaton (associate lead evaluator, and a Oconee County Middle School principal), Dr. Janet Goodman (Haralson County School System Chief Administrative Officer), Paul Weir (Cherokee County School System Director of School Improvement), Deborah Harris (Richmond County School System Assistant Superintendent), Scott Bouranis (a retired New Hampshire educator and principal), and Dr. Ken Borokhovich (a retired U.S. Army Lt. Colonel from Ohio).
The school system first sought system-wide accreditation in 2006, through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools / Council on Accreditation and School Improvement (SACS CASI), and again in 2011 through AdvancED. AdvancED was formed in 2006 through the merger of SACS CASI and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement (NCA CASI), the nation’s two largest national accreditation agencies, into a nation-wide private accreditation entity.
Accreditation of schools and school systems provide a number of benefits, including reciprocity of credits, courses, and student placement among accredited schools and institutions, and greater access for students to postsecondary institutions, military programs, federal loans, and scholarships that require students attend an accredited institution. Accreditation also promotes the development of a continuous school improvement process based on comprehensive quality standards, the best policies and practices of similar institutions, and regular review by a team of outside professionals.
“Accreditation of a school system is crucial for a community,” noted Coweta School System Superintendent Barker, in his letter to employees on Thursday. “Economic development in a community, quality of life in a community, competitive college admissions for students, and the reputation of the school system in part hinge on this important event that occurs once every five years”
“Receiving an accreditation evaluation that places the Coweta County School System at the top of the list is outstanding,” he added.