An accreditation team of educators gave the Troup County School System good grades and recommended the school system be re-accredited for another five years.
Wednesday, Board of Education members received an exit review by David Gallatt, chairman for the external review committee for AdvancED, a national accreditation group which incorporates the standards of what previously was the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, or SACS. Gallatt said the report, which is preliminary until it is approved by the AdvancED central office, showed Troup schools were strong in most areas, with only shortfalls in its technology incorporation.
The external review team under Gallatt, a retired public educator, was comprised of three educators from different areas of Georgia and two out-of-state educators. All members gave school system personnel compliments and positive reviews at the top of the review.
“I have just enjoyed myself coming this far to Georgia, and some people have gone over and beyond to make our stay just wonderful here,” said Markchele Williams of the Maricopa County Regional School District in Phoenix, Ariz. “The test of a district is its people, and you definitely have wonderful people.”
The accreditation process breaks performance into five basic categories, which the group rated. Using a 1-to-4 scale, with 4 being highest and 1 being “just not there,” Gallatt said the group gave Troup schools the following ratings:
•Purpose and direction, 2.75.
•Governance and leadrship, 3.2.
•Teaching and assessing for learning, 2.67.
•Resources and support systems, 2.88.
•Using results for continuous improvement, 2.8.
“I’ve been on many visits, I’ve chaired many visits, and those numbers are a little higher than most of the district numbers that I have been associated with as either the chair or participant (of a review team),” Gallatt said.
In an assessment of 36 randomly chosen classes at six schools, the team gave the following scores on a 1-to-4 scale.
•Equitable learning environment, 2.7.
•High-expectations environment, 2.8.
•Supportive learning environment, 3.1.
•Active learning environment, 3.2.
•Progress monitoring and feedback environment, 3.
•Well-managed learning environment, 3.3.
•Digital learning environment, 1.9.
“You’re numbers are good,” Gallatt said, adding that its score for a well-managed learning environment was “higher than I’ve seen in most districts I’ve visited.”
The one area where the classes received a low score was digital learning environment, which Gallatt said has to do with the student’s use of interactive technology. Tools like Promethean boards, interactive video “field trips” and using smart boards for statistical coordination of mathematics are some examples of what assessors are looking for, and it’s common for schools to fall below AdvancED standards.
“It’s very common right now because AdvancED standards are very high,” Gallatt said. “They’re pushing learning by using technology in the classrooms. … That area is generally low in all of the districts, and those give you room for improvement for things in the future, as you get infrastructure work done for technology and get new computers.”
The external review team gave the following areas that the TCSS needs to improve:
•Establish and implement metrics for system goals in the system improvement plan.
Gallatt said the school system could put “targets” out that it can measure and know each year how many goals for its improvement plan it has met.
•Design and provide exemplars for lessons and performance tasks required of students.
That means teachers should give students examples of what performance they expect for certain grades. Gallatt said some teachers are doing it and some are not.
•Design and implement a new teacher mentoring program that focuses on teacher support, instructional processes and training for data disaggregation requirements.
Gallatt said mentoring will help not only new teachers, but even highly experienced teachers who are new to the district will need some adjustment.
“They still need to know how to do it here,” Gallatt said. “That’s common.”
•Design and develop a technology infrastructure to support the system’s teaching, learning and operational needs.
To better meet technology standards, having adequate Internet connectivity and bandwidth to expand, and getting the appropriate hardware is necessary, Gallatt said.
•Develop a systematic process to formally evaluate program effectiveness designed to address counseling, assessment and referral, as well as educational and career-planning needs of all students.
In public education, the system needs to target students with needs and “do more than just teach the child in the classroom.”
“We need to do more to help them with their learning needs, their family needs and their emotional needs,” Gallatt said. “A well-rounded child who feels better and more comfortable in classroom will do better, will achieve more, will graduate and will make your system look better because you are providing for those children.”
•Develop and implement a system-wide professional development protocol for all instructional personnel addressing the interpretation and effective use of data.
Gallatt said the school system does a good job collecting and breaking down data for schools, but needs to go a step further.
“We believe that teachers could better use … these data as they receive some professional development prior to principals bringing out and breaking apart all the data,” he said.
Gallatt said in 30 days that the team will send its official report with those suggestions to AdvancED.
“We feel that none of them are frivolous, none of them are terribly expensive and will be necessary (for improvement to the school system),” Gallatt said.
The school system will have five years to implement the changes the report identifies. The school system will need to give a progress report in two years on how it is addressing those goals.
Gallatt said that the team is recommending to AdvancED that TCSS be approved for accreditation. AdvancED is expected to officially grant the accreditation status in June.
“This is a great process for us,” said Board of Education Chairwoman Sheila Rowe. “It allows us to look at our weak points and celebrate our accomplishments. … I’d also like to thank all the people at all the schools that worked so hard.”