February 08, 2012 - Brandon Twp.- Applause erupted and cheers were heard, if not the sighs of relief, as Richard Schoonover announced that he and the rest of the AdvancED Quality Assurance Review team would be recommending accreditation for the Brandon School District.
Schoonover, lead evaluator for the team, made the announcement Feb. 8 to a room at the I-TEC Center packed with district stakeholders, including teachers, administrators, and parents.
"Does this mean you've arrived?" asked Schoonover, smiling. "No. It means you've started."
Continuous improvement was the overriding theme of the QAR team's oral exit report given late Wednesday afternoon following a three-day visit to the district.
The team, consisting of five educators, including current principals and teachers and Schoonover, a retired superintendent from Nebraska, were here to evaluate Brandon and determine whether the district meets seven quality standards required for district accreditation.
The QAR team visited schools, went into classrooms, listened to presentations, reviewed standard assessment reports and the district website, and interviewed 184 stakeholders, including six boardmembers, 17 administrators, 53 teachers, 31 support staff, 49 students, and 28 parents, community members and business partners.
According to the advanc-ed.org website, "AdvancED is the world's largest education community, serving more than 27,000 public and private schools and districts across the United States and in 69 countries that educate over 15 million students. We believe that students must be prepared to succeed in a constantly-evolving and diverse world and that educational institutions have a deep responsibility to deliver quality education to students from all walks of life."
The team commended the district for their "embracing of 21st century tools to communicate with all stakeholders," as well as implementation of a comprehensive technology system that supports teaching and learning."
The QAR team found two actions that will be required to move the district forward—one, "reviewing the needs of the district regarding the use of student performance data and develop, identify, or select a process/system that provides staff access to knowledge and support needed to use data to guide/inform instruction" and two, "develop and implement a process to formally communicate the vision statement to all stakeholders and solicit input to guide continuous improvement."
The team assessed the district on seven quality standards required for accreditation: Vision and purpose; governance and leadership; teaching and learning; documenting and using results; resources and support system; stakeholder communications and relationships; and commitment to continuous improvement.
The district was found to be "operational," meaning it is demonstrating the standard and using practices commonly found in other schools, in all areas except two— documenting and using results and commitment to continuous improvement. In those two areas, the district was deemed emerging— beginning to put in place the practices necessary to meet the standard, but not meeting it.
Still, Schoonover and the team are recommending accreditation for the district and in 30 days, school administrators will receive a written report. After receipt of the report, the district will review committee finding, address actions, monitor standards, and submit and accreditation report.
"Part of the continuous improvement is doing the research and working through the process," said Schoonover. We never tell (administrators) specifics on how to achieve a higher rating in the areas they need work, because their solutions need to fit their district and community. It's not a cookie-cutter approach."
School Board Secretary Debbie Schummer said the results from the QAR visit shows the district is on track for excellence.
"The leaders in the classroom, the staff, we all play a role in the vision and purpose of the district," said Schummer. "This accreditation shows a lot of good things are happening here and that is what 2012 needs to be about."
Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville