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County schools begin internal review

The Franklin County Board of Education is in the midst of a detailed and intricate process: accreditation review.

The internal review is an integral part of the accreditation renewal, which occurs every five years. It requires extensive time and documentation by teachers to prove and illustrate how the system measures up against numerous standards, each with its own set of sub-standards – things like “The system engages in a systematic, inclusive and comprehensive process to review, revise and communicate a system-wide purpose for student success” (under Purpose and Direction); “The system provides a technology infrastructure and equipment to support the systems to meet the physical, social and emotional needs of the student population being served” (under Resources and Support Systems) and “All staff members participate in a continuous program of professional learning” (under Teaching and Assessing for Learning). It’s a rigorous rating system in which the Franklin County school system must rate itself from one to four on each sub-standard, with threes and fours representing strengths and ones and twos denoting areas of weakness in need of improvement.

Accreditation, which is through AdvancED, means “our schools meet the same standards as the other schools in the United States and other countries in the world” that are accredited by AdvancED, said Tilda Sumerel. Sumerel is federal programs resource coordinator for the FCBOE.

In addition to teachers and administrators compiling information on their respective schools, a large focus group of teachers, administrators, county government officials and other community stakeholders – split into five review teams – has been organized to work on the system-wide internal review. Accreditation is in relation to the system as a whole, rather than individual schools, as was the case in the past, prior to 2011.

“Accreditation is a measuring tool,” explained Superintendent Gary Williams. “If we do well, we’re doing as good as or better than other school systems across the nation. That’s good for our parents and stakeholders to know. Of course you want to do well on it so you measure up.”

Five years ago, the system was only asked to improve upon two items: to improve its mission statement, which was judged to be too broad, and two better-train faculty on how to interpret date from test scores. Williams said those two items have been addressed.

The focus group, referred to as the System District Leadership team, met last week to begin the months-long process of nailing down every strength and weakness of every school in the county system. It will meet several more times before sending its report to AdvancED, whose external review team will visit Franklin County to make assessments, by interviewing school personnel and community members as well as observing classrooms, in May.