- Image via Wikipedia
Have you ever watched an ant mound busy at work? Through the racing around, carrying crumbs, and constant challenges, those ants work together to get the job done. Well, school districts can be compared to that ant mound. District leaders are racing around, dealing with the resource crumbs they are dealt, and battling through the constant challenges that face schools on a daily basis.
At a time when negative press about finances and schools is rampant, St. Clair County School System is using this time to celebrate excellence and work together for continuous improvement at all levels. The district is seeking District Accreditation. Just as you were the observer over the ant mound, imagine that the external review team coming to the district will make those same kinds of observations while taking notes and providing an exit report to help the district continually improve.
What does this mean for the district? District leaders engaged in AdvancED District Accreditation will take stock in themselves in relation to a set of research based quality standards; establish a vision, assess their current reality, implement an improvement plan, monitor progress and evaluate results; and enhance best thinking with the insights and perspectives of an external review team.
This is a three step process:
- District completes a rigorous self-assessment based on the seven standards
i. Vision and Purpose
ii. Governance and Leadership
iii. Teaching and Learning
iv. Documenting and Using Results
v. Resources and Support Systems
vi. Stakeholder Communications and Relationships
vii. Commitment to Continuous Improvement
- District prepares for and hosts a team of educational leaders who do school visits, conduct interviews of various stakeholders, and assess evidence gathered to support the standards.
- Team provides a list of Commendations and Required Actions. Visiting team gives a recommendation to AdvancED’s Accreditation Commission regarding accreditation status. Accreditation lasts for five years. (Information from http://www.advanc-ed.org )
St. Clair County Schools has completed the first step by creating a Standards Assessment Report (SAR). Led by School Improvement Specialist Jan Darnell Bailey; teams of administrators, district leaders, and teachers have created a profile of the St. Clair County School District with evidence for the team. Superintendent Mrs. Jenny Seals will do an overview of the district, and chairpersons will present highlights from the SAR to the team. Some of the highlights of that report include the following: strong and evolving vision and mission, gains in assessments at various grade levels, an increase of the district’s overall graduation rate from 83%- 87%, strong evidence of policies and procedures, increased access to technology in the classroom, trust in the stewardship of school finances, indications that stakeholders surveyed are included in the educational process, and more. Some of the challenges still facing the district: providing necessary resources and personnel during increased proration, making adequate yearly progress (AYP) in all subgroups within the schools, aligning curriculum across the district and with new national standards, communicating with stakeholders in an effective and timely manner.
The next step is the external team visit. This will occur October 24- 27. The team will be greeted with a gift basket of items displaying many businesses and goods of St. Clair County to acquaint them with the area and communities. They will stay in a local hotel, eat at local restaurants, and make visits to the central office and various schools interviewing leaders and stakeholders and observing the educational process. The team is from all over the country and will be here to make an objective report to help the district capitalize on its strengths and continually improve.
So just like that ant mound, keep in mind that the district is working in the midst of challenges to do the best job for the students of St. Clair County. If you see this team at the end of October entering your school or your dining establishment at lunch, greet them and assure them that you support the work of the district to Prepare Tomorrow’s Leaders Today.
(article created for the St. Clair Times by Brandi Caldwell, Technology Integration Specialist)