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Schools getting a thumbs-up

POSTED: February 4, 2010 8:58 p.m.
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Members of the SACS review team prepare to deliver their remarks.

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After a four-day in-depth review of the Effingham County School System, the Quality Assurance Review team from AdvancED announced its recommendation for district accreditation as a quality school system at the school board meeting Wednesday.

AdvancED is a national organization of the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement. Accredited schools and districts are expected to meet AdvancED standards for enhancing student learning and must be reviewed every five years.

A team of eight education professionals assembled in Effingham where they visited eight schools and 80 classrooms inspected data and interviewed 418 stakeholders, including administrators, students, parents, faculty and community and business partners.

“We are very proud and honored to recommend the school system for district accreditation,” said Tom Jones SACS CASI team chair and Kentucky state director for the SACS CASI office. “We feel like you are a very worthy system. I’m not the state director in Georgia, but if I were I would be more than honored to have you as part of the SACS and AdvancED family.”

The team complimented Effingham schools on creating an atmosphere of trust among parents, teachers and the community, pointing out that the district’s reputation had become a reason for people to move to the area.

“They trust the Board of Education, they trust the administrators, they trust the superintendents, they trust their schools,” Jones said. “You could even go as far to say that the school system is a source of pride for the stakeholders that we’ve interviewed.”

The team also commended the school system on the strategies, interventions and resources that have been utilized to ensure students graduate from high school, as well as the board’s designation as a Board of Distinction from the Georgia School Boards Association.

The QAR team pointed out challenges of the system such as maintaining, upgrading and integrating technology to optimize student learning and recruiting staff that reflect the ethnicity of the student and community populations.

In order to maintain accreditation, the team required that the district set clear and measurable goals, develop a process to evaluate those goals and assess data to ensure that initiatives are meeting their desired impact.

The QAR team’s report will be reviewed by the national commission in June when the district will be granted a five-year term of accreditation.

“I appreciate the work of the team over the last three days in reviewing the education program and services offered in the Effingham County School District,” said Assistant Superintendent Greg Arnsdorff, the school system’s AdvancED/SACS CASI liaison. “Our team demonstrated a breadth of experience, which is clearly evident in the commendations and required actions offered in its exit report. I look forward to reviewing their final and detailed report next month. The report will further strengthen the district’s efforts in continuous improvement.”

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