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KCSD recommended for AdvancEd accreditation

Posted: October 10, 2013 5:16 p.m.
Updated: October 11, 2013 5:00 a.m.

The Kershaw County School District (KCSD) received a recommendation for accreditation following a three-day long external review by AdvancEd earlier this week.

The Kershaw County Board of School Trustees held a special meeting Wednesday during which AdvancEd external review team Chair Dave Spellman told the board and various KCSD administrators that the team will recommend that the district keep its accreditation. The district is the first school district in South Carolina to undergo a completely new accreditation process, KCSD Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan said. The new process is more rigorous than the old accreditation process, he said. The district prepared for more than a year for the AdvancEd visit. The district performed a nine-month self-evaluation beginning in January, a key part of the accreditation process. Throughout the year, KCSD Executive Director for K-12 Instructional Support Systems Dr. Alisa Goodman brought various policy updates and five-year curriculum goals before the board in preparation for the AdvancEd visit.

Spellman, of Arizona, said various sources reported that Kershaw County was a good district before he arrived in South Carolina. Spellman said the district has “great leadership” and does a “great job” of communicating to stakeholders, while fostering greater understanding of the school’s mission. The district actively monitors and publicizes information regarding student learning outcomes and is proactive in problem solving, he said. The district is also mastering the art of long-term fiscal planning and resource management and all KCSD facilities are being managed well, which shows that the students are the priority, Spellman said.

“Great schools systems want to improve also. This is a great school system; you have a lot of great things to be proud of,” Spellman said. “You are concerned with every child in the system.”

During the AdvancEd review, a six-member team interviewed 115 stakeholders, 51 administrators, 28 parents, 26 students, seven teachers and three support staff members. The team also observed 63 classrooms to assess student learning throughout the district. The team suggested that the district implement and frequently use more system-wide processes to evaluate student achievement and how students are learning. They also challenged the district to focus on implementing professional development opportunities. Morgan said professional development is an area the district is currently looking into.

Spellman said that, overall, the district has helped develop a strong sense of community and takes a proactive approach.

“You like to get ahead of things. You aren’t looking at the past, you aren’t trying to solve problems that occurred five years ago, you’re trying to find solutions before there is a problem,” he said.

Morgan said the accreditation process is valuable, especially in terms of helping make good decisions about district resources as the economic environment improves. 

“I was pleased that the team recognized what the district has accomplished in spite of the challenges we have faced because of budget cuts. It’s always good to have an outside perspective about what we’re doing,” Morgan said in a press release.

Morgan and Board Chair Mara Jones recognized all of the administrators who helped in the accreditation process.

AdvancEd accreditation is valid for five years. This year’s external review team was made up of educators from South Carolina, Georgia, Arizona and Florida. AdvancEd -- which has an international presence and accredits everything from corporate schools to private schools -- makes sure learning environments are “systemic, systematic and sustainable,” Spellman said. He and the other members of the team said they were impressed by the hospitality and professionalism of KCSD employees. The review team looked at information provided by the district, reinforced its strengths and looked at areas where it can improve.

Accreditation by AdvancEd is a voluntary process that “examines how the processes and functions of the district work together to benefit student learning,” according to the press release. Sixty-three South Carolina school districts are accredited by AdvancEd. Kershaw County has been accredited since 1978. The district will receive a final formalized report within 30 days.

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