County schools get re-accreditation; more electronics recommended

Published 12:55 am Thursday, March 5, 2015

AdvancED officials recommended a 5-year reaccreditation for Covington County Schools and noted areas for improvement during Wednesday’s board of education meeting.

Since Sunday night, the system has been put through a rigorous, on-site external review by AdvancED. AdvancED is the largest community of education professionals in the world and is a non-profit organization.

Keith Shaffer led a team of four evaluators from Macon County, Enterprise City Schools, Houston County Schools and Mississippi, who assessed the county school system based on three domains — impact of teaching and learning, capacity of leadership and usefulness of resources. Shaffer is the director for AdvancED in Mississippi.

Crowded in the board room were school principals, teachers and board members, who hung onto every one of Shaffer’s words.

The school system has been going through a self assessment, or internal review, for more than a year.

“As a side, I have to tell you that we were so pleasantly surprised when we were getting data before we got here that these folks took an honest and realistic approach to their self assessment,” Shaffer said. “They didn’t over glorify what they were doing.”

Throughout the assessment period, the evaluators interviewed, talked to or had significant conversations with 161 people.

“Our Monday was really filled with interviews,” Shaffer said.

Under the impact of teaching and learning domain, the evaluators looked at student performance results and instructional quality using the ELEOT observation tool.

Out of their observations, Shaffer said the community spirit is evident not only in the system, but in each school regardless of size.

“There was a pride in part of being a part of Covington County Schools, but there was pride in being a Fleeta Falcon, or wherever else we might have been,” he said. “Most of the facilities were very clean and maintained. Our team found an atmosphere that’s supportive in all levels.”

Shaffer said through the interviews with parent groups, it was revealed that there is a strong desire for music and the arts, applying facelifts to a couple campuses and a “cry for consistently celebrating academics.”

The ELEOT observation tool gives a 20-minute snapshot of what evaluators see in a classroom. In the 58 classrooms the group of four visited over three days, the evaluators found that the hardest thing to achieve is through digital learning.

“We’re measuring student engagement,” Shaffer said. “How are students engaged in technology.”

In the leadership capacity domain, the evaluators found that the board, district and school leadership are moving in the same direction to unify the system, but yet allow the schools to maintain their individual identity, and Shaffer added that you don’t need to be a system of schools, but need to be a school system.

“Covington County Schools is becoming that school system,” he said.

In the final domain (the usefulness of resources), the school system, although not surprised based on its own internal review, was found to be lacking in the technology department.

“That’s something this system identified for itself,” Shaffer said.

Additionally, Shaffer said the governing body and district leadership act appropriately to pursue continual school efforts.

“Everybody knows their job and they like to do it,” Shaffer said.

The evaluators noted what opportunities for improvement the system can focus on in the future. The opportunities for improvement are as follows:

• develop a process to monitor school and district website to make more accurate;

• develop a formal process where every child on campus has a unique advocate; and,

• create an induction or mentoring program for outside applicants to acclimate to the county frame of mind.

The school system was also given its improvement priorities, which include assessing the needs for the effective use of technology by the students to increase academic achievement, develop and implement a comprehensive professional learning plan, and address instructional practices in a different manner.

Once all of the evaluating is completed, the scores are tabulated and Covington County Schools’ system IEQ is 296.34. The average for the AdvancED network is 282.45.

“That is to be applauded,” Shaffer said.

The teaching and learning impact was graded a 286.90; the leadership capacity was graded a 314.58, more than 21 points higher than the average; and the resource utilization was graded a 293.75, a 11-point difference than the average.

Shaffer said the evaluators will make a recommendation for reaccreditation for Covington County Schools to a commission of AdvancED for another five years.

The recommendation goes to a commission, which meets in June.

CCS Superintendent Shannon Driver said the system feels good about the report.

“The team did a good job of evaluating our system and our schools,” Driver said. “Our schools all scored well and performed well in their accreditation. We feel real good about our process. It confirmed what we knew; that we had a good school system. Our schools are doing an outstanding job, and we want to continue the good work we want to do.”