School System Gets Thumbs Up
The Effingham County School System is on track to be accredited for five more years.
A team of six education leaders from throughout the Southeast made the recommendation last week at the conclusion of a four-day visit to review Effingham schools. The group conducted the external review for AdvancED, the organization that oversees school accreditation.
The team members visited Effingham school campuses and interviewed school officials and board of education members. They spoke to 224 people during the Effingham visit, including school administrators, staff, students and parents, according to lead evaluator Mary Anne Hipp.
“It’s all about constant, consistent improvements,” said Effingham Schools Superintendent Randy Shearouse. “We want to be the best system possible, and we think this process will lead us in that direction.”
In the external review, each school system is scored on the impact of its teaching and learning, its leadership and its use of resources. The Effingham County School System’s score of 287.8 on AdvancED’s Index of Educational Quality exceeded the average score of 282.7.
“This school system is performing within certainly an acceptable and an extraordinary range as compared to many other places,” Hipp said. “There are some excellent people here and some excellent programs going on. I like the vision they have, because it really is on the forefront.”
The external review team’s recommendation will be forwarded to AdvancED’s accreditation commission, which meets twice a year. The Effingham County School System will receive its official notification this summer.
“We cannot accredit you. We only make the recommendation,” Hipp said. “I can’t tell you it will be approved. I just can’t tell you why it wouldn’t be approved.”
The review team lauded Effingham’s commitment to career readiness and technical education. The Effingham College and Career Academy offers several career pathways and the school system has established partnerships with a number of local businesses and industries.
“You have done what you needed to do as a system,” Hipp said. “You have taken the risk and produced an amazing career center. What we have seen here is unimaginable in many places.”
One improvement the team instructed the school system to make is to develop and implement a comprehensive, strategic plan “that identifies measurable objectives, strategies, activities, resources and timelines for achieving system improvement goals.”
Another directive was to modify classroom instruction so that learning expectations are better outlined to students and they receive “specific and immediate feedback” about their performance.
“For decades, we have been giving feedback primarily on paper,” Hipp said. “And now, it is more important to also add that instant giving back of some information so that (students) can improve (their) work right there on the spot.”
Effingham County schools also will be required to meet a new AdvancED quality standard. Every student must have an advocate, “somebody who really knows them and they can feel like they have somebody to go to,” Hipp said.
The review team did not specify how the school system should go about making the improvements. That will be decided by Effingham school leaders, Hipp said.
“AdvancED does not allow us to tell you how to do it,” she said. “That is left to the people who know how to do that the best.”
The school system must make the improvements within the next two years and report back to AdvancED.
“Of course, we won’t wait on the report (this summer) because those are areas that we’ll start working on immediately, and we already were working on some of those areas,” Shearouse said. “We’ll make continuous improvement.”
By Paul Floeckher