Newton schools to be reviewed for accreditation this week

COVINGTON – For the first time since August 2008, the Newton County School System will undergo an extensive district accreditation process by AdvancED’s Southern Accreditation of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement.

AdvancED, which accredits the school system once every five years, will hold a three-day auditing period conducted by an External Review Team. This year’s External Review Team for Newton consists of Dr. Donald Warren, director of Curriculum for Henry County schools; Linda Pratt, an elementary school principal from Clay County, Fla., and other representatives from school systems across — and even outside of — the country.

During their visit, lasting from Monday through Wednesday, the External Review Team will determine if NCSS meets the following criteria: demonstration of compliance with the SACS CASI Accreditation Standards for Quality School Systems, identification and illustration of the system’s framework for continuous improvements, and evidence showcased of methods being employed to monitor and maintain quality assurance.

The team will also be determining if NCSS meets the five Standards for Quality, which AdvancED defines as: purpose and direction, governance and leadership, teaching and assessing for learning, resources and support systems and using results for continuous improvement.

In order to prepare for the team’s visit, each NCSS school was required to perform a few tasks. This included conducting and analyzing stakeholder surveys from parents, students and certified staff; analyzing and summarizing student achievement data from state and local assessments; conducting a self-assessment of the current level of performance in regard to the five AdvancED accreditation standards; and developing an executive summary from the information in the self-assessment.

“The Newton County School System has a laser-like focus on increasing student achievement and more effective teaching,” said NCSS Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey. “Both our district and school teams have been working diligently to prepare the evidence of our work for the AdvancED team to review. I look forward to welcoming the external review team, and I am certain they will see the hard work and dedication of our staff, the focus of our students, and the support from our parents and community.”

According to the school system, accreditation assures that the school system is providing and ensuring academic excellence for students along with a standard of quality among credits, courses and grade level placements between schools and universities. The process also validates the equivalency of diplomas and certificates to other accredited schools and universities.

On its website, AdvancED states that “accreditation is a voluntary method of quality assurance developed more than 100 years ago by American universities and secondary schools, and designed primarily to distinguish schools adhering to a set of educational standards.” It also states that an institution’s honest self-evaluation, prior to the External Review Team arriving, is vital in bringing to light challenges or obstacles that may have not been fully understood previously.

The External Review Team will release its findings at a special called meeting at the NCSS Board of Education headquarters on Newton Drive on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. The school system will then learn its accreditation status for the next five years, subject to review by the AdvancED organization prior to becoming official.