TCSS releases AdvancED review

Published 9:36 pm Friday, June 8, 2018

The Troup County School System’s AdvancED review was released this week, showing areas where the system is excelling and others where it can be improved.

AdvancEd reviewers talked to 421 stakeholders and reviewed the system in 31 standards during its review from Feb. 25-28. The system was reviewed as “exceeds expectations” in four standards, “meets expectation” in 10 standards, “emerging” in 16 standards and “needs improvement” in one standard.

The results of the review have been part of the school system’s response to allegations from the Troup County Branch of the NAACP, which is alleging that the school system is falsifying discipline data and pressuring teachers to improve grades to pass students that might fail otherwise.  The Troup County branch of the NAACP sent a letter detailing the allegations to Gov. Nathan Deal’s office, the Georgia Board of Education and the Georgia Department of Public Safety’s Office of Professional Standards. It was sent to The LaGrange Daily News on Tuesday at the request of the newspaper.

“I’m asking for journalism at its best to ask the tough questions. File the open records act, ask to see the discipline from 2009 to 2015 to now. Let the data speak for itself. If you think that what we’re saying is not truthful, then let the data speak for itself,” said NAACP President Ernest Ward at a press conference Friday. “If what the NAACP has investigated and shown forth in our writeup is not accurate, then show us the evidence to prove us wrong, is what we ask.”

Yolanda Stephen, the director of public relations for Troup County School System, said there were no findings in the AdvancEd report to support the allegations.

“The AdvancEd report does not support those claims, and they were in 55 classrooms in 13 of our schools,” Stephen said. 

The only standard where the system was graded as “needs improvement” in the evaluation is “the governing authority adheres to a code of ethics and functions within defined roles and responsibilities.” The report references board members directly contacting individual employees, which is not illegal, but does “undermine the authority of the superintendent and put(s) employees in awkward positions.”

Stephen said when they get a “needs improvement” score, they put that area in their system improvement plan.

“We actually sit down and make a strategic plan about it, put it in our system improvement plan and share it back with AdvancEd so that they can know whatever needs improvement has been corrected,” Stephen said.

Every other standard was graded at “emerging” or above.

Ward remained unimpressed with the AdvancEd review, which is completed once every five years. He spoke Friday at Ark Refuge, where he asked for an immediate intervention into the school system.

“I’ve been a principal and administrator at all levels and when you brought visitors in your building, you didn’t take them to your worst classroom,” Ward said. “You took them to the place where people could put on a dog and pony show, so they can make you look good. If you are worth your weight in gold, that’s what you do.”

Stephen said the school system does not pre-select which schools or classrooms will be reviewed by AdvancEd. She said they are chosen at random.

Mariama Jenkins, director of public relations for AdvancEd, could not speak specifically about the Troup County review, but gave an overview of how the review process works.

She said school systems will have a general idea of when a review is taking place, but they won’t know the specifics of the timeline or which schools will be looked at.

“We try to look at a good cross-section of the school system,” Jenkins said. “We would try to be as reprensentative of the system as we could be. The school system can’t say ‘we only want you to go this school and not this school.’ They don’t have that kind of influence over the process.”

Jenkins also said that if anyone interviewed during an AdvancEd review had logged a complaint, such as the ones Ward is alleging, it would have likely been investigated. She said if something like that does come up during a review, it is “likely” it would be documented, even if it was found not to true. There is no mention of any of the NAACP’s allegations in the AdvancEd review.

“If it came up in a review, it would be looked at,” Jenkins said.

The AdvancEd review is still pending final approval. The entire report can be viewed on the Troup County School System website at

The NAACP’s letter detailing its allegations was combined with letters from anonymous teachers and administrators. Ward would not say earlier this week how many teachers and administrators wrote those letters. The letter sent to The LaGrange Daily News was unsigned, but Ward said the letter sent to the three intended groups was signed.

He challenged everyone in attendance at the press conference to be at the Troup County School Board’s two meetings next week.

“The board meets next week. Monday and Thursday,” Ward said. “If this community has the passion for our educational system, which I know they do, there should be standing-room-only in that board meeting.”