An AdvancED Systems Accreditation External Review committee from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools will begin its survey of the Cleveland city school system today.
Supervisor of Professional Development and Federal Projects Debby Torres explained the voluntary process occurs every five years.
“What this sort of forces you to do is put [everything the school system] is doing into a nice, clean portfolio for them,” Torres said. “It is a good self-reflection to see what we are hitting.”
The school system will be judged on five standards:
- Purpose and Direction
- Governance and Leadership
- Teaching and Assessing for Learning
- Resources and Support Systems
- Using results for continuous improvement.
The process will begin tonight and go through Wednesday afternoon. The committee will present both recommendations and commendations as its last act. School administrators will also learn whether the system has received accreditation.
Accreditation awarded at the high school level provides an assurance of quality. It does not dictate the worth of a student’s diploma. Rather, a high school accredited by SACS acts as a testament to the education received at the high school in question.
Cleveland City Schools has so far received accreditation each visit.
Director of City Schools Dr. Martin Ringstaff will provide an overview of the system this evening. It will serve as the kickoff for the committee’s visit.
According to Torres, teams chosen by the school system will present an overview of five standards. Each team’s presentation will be complete with an assessment of the system’s success in each area. Members of the SACS team will then interview each team.
Parent and Community teams along with the school board will also be interviewed Monday.
Torres said she hopes the SACS team takes note of the effort placed in at-risk students’ education.
“I think in the Cleveland City Schools one of our strengths is in the fact we have a unique set-up for our most at-risk secondary students,” Torres said. “They are in a small, safe environment. They have people they can really connect with.”
She said she would like for the committee to visit the Teen Learning Center.
The SACS team will visit every school in the system on Tuesday. Each principal will speak with the team. In addition, committee members will interview school leadership and randomly visit classrooms.
Ringstaff listed several aspects of the school system he hopes the committee takes note of during its survey.
He pointed out the work completed with the English Language Proficiency students, or those students who did not learn English as their native language.
According to Ringstaff, the city schools experienced an unexpected growth in its Latino population.
“And then how we are dealing with growth in general,” Ringstaff said. “There has been a lot of quick growth. When I got here there was 4,760 kids and now we are at about 5,190. That is 400 students in two and a half years.”
A growth in population is just one change since the last SACS visit. The city school system has also experienced a change in superintendents, a rapid growth within its Career and Technical Education courses and an increase in communication across the board.
“[A new superintendent] changed the vision of the school system,” Ringstaff said. “Since then, we have adopted a whole new strategic plan.”
SACS recommended four goals after its last visit:
- Increase the graduation rate to meet state expectations.
- Research and develop a math initiative to address areas of need at all grade levels.
- Address growth differences and gaps within subgroups.
- Integrate reading strategies into all content areas in grades 9 through 12.
New recommendations will be presented at Wednesday afternoon’s meeting.
Ringstaff said the committee seemed excited to begin the process. He is also looking forward to the visit.
“I like outside audits. Every year we go through a financial audit. I like seeing where we are missing the mark and where we can get better,” Ringstaff said. “It is easy for us to get caught up in internal audits ... but we end up with subconscious blinders on.”
Torres agreed, “Sometimes when you are so close to it is hard to see [the problems].”
Continued Torres, “If we come away with one really good recommendation that we can take and do something with, then that is what we are really about.”
“We are about finding a need and filling it.”