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Accreditation team arrives in Meridian

By Staff
ENGLISH COMPOSITION Debbie Boyd, 10th-grade English teacher at Meridian High School, works with Shelly Bernstein on an essay. Photo by Paula Merritt / The Meridian Star
By Steve Gillespie/staff writer
Feb. 20, 2002
Middle and secondary schools in Meridian are undergoing an accreditation process today and Thursday, as a team from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools arrives to evaluate local campuses.
Meridian's schools are accredited through SACS, one of six regional accrediting organizations recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Involvement in the association is voluntary.
The SACS School Improvement Process works in five-year cycles, during which school officials: 1) do needs assessments; 2) analyze student performance; 3) establish goals for learning; and 4) create action plans to improve learning.
The SACS team visiting middle schools, junior highs and the high school this week is checking the status of their improvement plans.
Meridian's elementary schools went through the process two years ago.
Unlike the accreditation granted by the state department of education, which is mostly performance-based, SACS accreditation is broader, according to Sylvia Autry, Meridian schools assistant superintendent. She said the SACS team takes into consideration each school's staff, test data and courses, as well as going over a standards check list and conducting interviews with parents.
Meridian High School Principal James Bounds said SACS accrediting agents act as consultants, issuing an accreditation exit report with recommendations and commendations. The assessment determines whether each school will maintain its accreditation with the association.
Bounds said the high school is working toward lengthening instruction time for its students as part of its improvement plan. Although the recommendation has not been made yet, he told the school board in December that such a recommendation would be forthcoming.
Bounds would like to see the high school change its scheduling from a block schedule, in which students have 98-minute classes for 18 weeks, to 64-minute classes for all 36 weeks in the school year. Instructional time for classes would increase from 140 to 170 hours for the school year.