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KCSD about to go through self-assessment

Posted: February 15, 2013 5:45 p.m.
Updated: February 18, 2013 5:00 a.m.

The Kershaw County School District (KCSD) is set to undergo a nine-month “self-assessment” process that will better prepare it for a three-day, peer-reviewed accreditation this fall. The district will be accredited by AdvancED, formed in 2006 through the consolidation of the widely-recognized Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. AdvancED requires the self-evaluation prior to the accreditation process.

In most countries, schools are accredited by the government, KCSD Executive Director for K-12 Instructional Support Programs Dr. Alisa Goodman said during the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees’ meeting Feb. 5. In America, most schools are accredited by external private organizations, she said.

“It allows a greater opportunity for our students to transfer from school to school with ease, to get scholarships, federal loans and college admission,” Goodman said.

The process is done in two parts, Goodman said. The first is an internal review, which the school district began in January, and an external review, to begin in October. The internal review will allow the district to “look in the mirror;” everyone in the district will evaluate where they are, how they are doing and determine their next steps. The external review will be peer-observed by an eight-member team from other school districts both from in and outside South Carolina to evaluate whether the school district was accurate in its internal review conclusions, Goodman said. The team will visit teachers and classrooms at various schools across the district and conduct interviews.

How does one accurately look within the mirror? Stakeholder feedback, self-assessment of standards, which determines whether the district is meeting their goals; student performance analysis (Palmetto Assessment of State Standards testing for elementary and middle school students and High School Assessment Program testing for high school and end-of-course exams), and a school renewal plan are all a part of the internal review.

The stakeholders include the school board and “anyone touched by the school district,” such as teachers, parents and community members, Goodman said. Stakeholders will participate in the internal review process by serving on “standards teams” and critique the self-assessment draft. Each school will self-assess, in addition to the district office, in the following areas: purpose and direction, governance/leadership teaching/assessing for learning, resources/support systems and using results for continuous improvement. Each area will be rated on one through four, “one” meaning “little/no implementation,” and include a narrative and evidence for each standard. Stakeholders will also participate in interviews during the external review process, which will help convey the “district’s story.” Most districts should expect to score between 2.5 and 3.5 on the review, Goodman said.

“There is tremendous work that goes into this process; it is very labor intensive,” Goodman said. “This is a continuous improvement model and if it is easy to be a four, there is nowhere else to go. If you are a 3.5 you are really, really good,” Goodman said.

Schools must undergo a review every five years to keep their accreditation. The KCSD’s last accreditation was in 2008; the district has been accredited since 1978, Goodman said. There are 1,094 accredited schools in South Carolina. Districts aren’t required to obtain school accreditation, however, Goodman said. The South Carolina Board of Education requires additional accreditation steps beyond AdvancED, which usually include specific teacher and administrator certification and credentials, and student ratios. AdvancED accredits schools in 70 countries and about 30,000 institutions.

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