See the video of the AdvancED External Review Team’s presentation here.
The Cherokee County School District on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017 was recommended for continued AdvancED district accreditation as a Quality School System!
The AdvancED external review team announced the recommendation at a called Cherokee County School Board meeting on Wednesday afternoon following a comprehensive evaluation process that culminated with a three-day site visit to interview stakeholders at all levels and see teaching and learning in action.
The recommendation for accreditation renewal, which lasts for five years and includes the School District as a whole and all of its schools and centers, will be considered for official approval by the AdvancED Commission at its next meeting in June. The School District in the 2006-07 school year became one of the first school systems in the United States to be awarded districtwide accreditation, and this prestigious national designation was renewed in 2011-12.
“This nationally recognized accreditation affirms for our community that our School District is of the highest quality and committed to excellence and continuous improvement. Accreditation is a rigorous process that not only confirms our blue-ribbon reputation, but also provides our leadership with valuable insights and suggestions from fellow educational leaders who participate in the external review,” Cherokee County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said. “One year ago today I accepted the great honor and privilege of serving as your Superintendent, and I today feel even prouder to be able to thank our community for its support of our School District, schools, teachers and students. Your dedication and support makes our success possible.”
The accreditation process, which is a voluntary method of quality assurance, requires that schools and school districts meet high quality standards, maintain a process of continuous improvement and engage in regular internal and external reviews.
To earn AdvancED accreditation, a school district must identify and sustain the implementation of a systemic continuous improvement process and monitor its schools for compliance with five Standards for Quality School Systems: Purpose and Direction, Governance and Leadership, Teaching and Assessing for Learning, Resources and Support Systems and Using Results for Continuous Improvement. AdvancED is the global leader in accrediting schools and universities, and the nine-member team that evaluated CCSD has more than 229 years of educational experience combined.
After reviewing CCSD surveys, performance data and other reports and records, the AdvancED team during its site visit this week interviewed more than 500 stakeholders including School Board members, the Superintendent of Schools, District and school administrators, teachers, support staff, students, parents and community and business partners and visited 90 classrooms in nine schools (Avery ES, Bascomb ES, Canton ES STEM Academy, Carmel ES, E.T. Booth MS, Etowah HS, Ralph Bunche Center, Teasley MS and Woodstock HS).
During the School Board meeting, Dr. Cheryl Allread, the AdvancED external review team leader, presented a report on the team’s findings.
“If there was ever a district that fits what you see on the slide,” she said referring to the high standards for accreditation, “it’s the Cherokee County School District. You’re never satisfied with the status quo… and as good as you are, you’re not satisfied – you want to get better.”
The school district was rated above the AdvancED network average, which is calculated from evaluations of 32,000 institutions, in all areas assessed… with an overall Index of Education Quality score of 315.85 out of 400 points and 37 points above average!
Overall Themes of educational excellence in CCSD cited by the team in its report include:
• Cohesive, supportive governing board that understands its role and responsibilities;
• Strong, visionary leadership;
• Shared leadership and support for collaboration;
• Commitment to shared values;
• Caring culture (family-like atmosphere);
• Clear direction, focused on the vision;
• Proactive and persistent communication efforts;
• Community investment;
• Parent engagement; and,
• Commitment to improve.
The team issued three Powerful Practices commendations to the School District. Dr. Allread defines these, which the team is not required to issue, as practices “that you do better than anyone else.” They are:
1. The governing board is a cohesive and supportive unit that operates responsibly with clearly defined policies and clearly respects the autonomy of the administration to attain goals for student achievement and instructional growth, while effectively managing the day-to-day operations of the school system.
2. The superintendent, system administration and school administration are strong, visionary leaders who support and encourage collaboration and shared leadership, thus fostering a caring culture that is consistent with the system’s purpose and direction.
3. System and school leaders engage in proactive, persistent and embedded efforts, which result in meaningful parent and community involvement and a sense of pervasive ownership and investment from stakeholders and families regarding student learning, school performance and achievement of system and school purpose and direction.
The team issued one Opportunities for Improvement suggestion to the School District. Dr. Allread said these, which the team is not required to issue, are “strictly that”: opportunities to build upon existing practices, but not required actions. The suggestion is:
1. Formalize processes whereby each student has an adult advocate who builds strong relationships over time with the student.
The team issued one Improvement Priority to the School District. Dr. Allread said the team must issue at least one action step for an area of specific improvement, and school districts must report back to AdvancED in two years on implementation progress. The action step is:
1. Fully implement the Instructional Framework initiative [note: CCSD began this four-year implementation in January 2017] in order to refine and enhance the instructional process used by teachers to systematically support quality student learning across all classrooms in the school system.
During the meeting, Dr. Hightower and School Board members thanked the review team as well as CCSD staff, led by Assistant Superintendent for Educational Programs Susan McCarthy, who received a standing ovation from the audience, for their work to prepare for the evaluation process.
“The teaching and learning you saw there the last three days happens all 180 days,” Board Chair Kyla Cromer told the AdvancED team, noting that Principals had the opportunity to let their schools shine during the site visits, and didn’t disappoint.
The hospitality costs associated with the AdvancED review team’s visit were sponsored by business and community partners. A special thanks is extended to the following sponsors for their support: Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce, Cherokee County Council of PTA, Cherokee County Educational Foundation, Cherokee County Office of Economic Development, Cherokee Retired Educators Association, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Credit Union of Georgia and Cobb EMC.
“You really tell your story very well, and people buy into it,” Dr. Allread said. “If I could have put my child, who’s 34 years old, here as a first-grader now, I’d do it in a heartbeat.”