Schools OK'd for advanced accreditation

Mar. 22, 2013 @ 04:55 AM

After about five years of work, Union County Public Schools received recommendation for AdvancED accreditation.

AdvancED accreditation is a voluntary process that assures quality control. The accreditation process focuses on efficiency and capacity of a system when it comes to student learning. In addition to a self-report, an external review team of eight evaluators, three from outside of the state and five from inside, comes to the district to interview students, teachers, board members and other stakeholders. 

This committee visited 10 schools during their three-day trip. 

“We’ve had a really great time discussing your school system,” David Gullatt, the team leader from Louisiana said Wednesday afternoon. 

Other team members said they were impressed by the sense of community, the students and other pieces of the system.

Under the new scoring system, parts are ranked on a scale from one to four, with one being the lowest possible score and four being the highest. 

Gullatt said they were told to “be careful with the fours.” He added that three is a good score and anything above a two is a great score. 

Under the category of purpose and direction, the system received a 2.75. Under the category of governance and leadership, the system received a 3.16. For resources and support systems, the system received a 3.13. For teaching and assessing for learning, the system received a 2.83 and for using results for continuous improvement, the system received a 2.6.

“This is a good school district and these are good scores,” Gullatt said. 

He noted that the scores were averages and in order to receive a three, it meant there were a few fours.

The learning environment ratings were also positive. The district received a 2.5 for an equitable learning environment. It received a 2.7 for a high expectations learning environment. It received a 3.0 for a supportive learning environment, a 3.0 for an active

See UCPS/page A5

learning environment, a 3.2 for a well-managed learning environment and a 2.1 for a digital learning environment. In addition, the district received a 2.7 for a progress monitoring and feedback environment. 

Gullatt noted that the lowest score, the marks for creating a digital learning environment, was usually the lowest for every school district because it is just beginning. 

The accreditation team had some suggestions for the school system. They want the system to enhance conversation between the central office and the principals, to provide more feedback. 

“All we want is more communication,” Gullatt said. He said he wanted them to look more often at school improvement plans. 

They also wanted more professional learning communities in the system. 

“We want more of that because we believe you have good solutions to your problems,” Gullatt said. 

He added that the team knows they are working on creating professional learning communities and encouraged them to do more. 

Gullatt and the team also advised the district to pay attention to their student “sub-groups.” He said that while the test data is showing gradual growth, it is also showing sub-groups that need more attention. 

The final recommendation was to have at least one adult advocate per student. Gullatt said this was a relatively new accreditation standard. He explained that kids who feel warm about coming to school will come more often and stay longer. He advised the system assign a student to a certain mention. The mentor will then reach out to the student and they will visit regularly. 

Overall, Gullatt and his team offered praise.

“Your system has a lot to be proud of,” Gullatt said. “It’s a well-oiled machine. We want to keep it that way.” 

Superintendent Mary Ellis was pleased with the report and eager to do more, citing her “good, better, best” motto. 

“I appreciate the report, I appreciate your kind words,” Ellis said. “Guys, we’re on the right track, I know we are.”

Ellis told the gathered principals and staff that she was focused and wanted to keep going. She echoed the accreditation team’s praise of the system and the county. 

“The best thing in Union County is the people,” Ellis said. 

The team will write a proper report which will be delivered to Ellis in the next 30 days. The final vote for accreditation will be taken in June.