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Officials outline response to accreditation requirements

JONESBORO — Officials were excited last spring when the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools/AdvancED, external review team announced it would recommend Clayton County Public Schools receive its first-ever district-wide accreditation.

The district finds itself, this fall, holding its five-year district accreditation but with conditions.

Clayton is “accredited on advisement,” means the team found the district was performing well in most areas but there were “a few minor concerns related to the standards.” It requires certain actions to address those concerns within the next two years.

The SACS/AdvancED report listed three required actions — continued improvement in board relations, public and community relations and coherency of instructional programs and digital technology use.

Fine Arts Director Monika Wiley led the push towards district accreditation through the accrediting firm. She said officials are already meeting regularly and have developed a protocol to evaluate the efficacy of the district’s different programs and services.

Wiley said administrators will receive training on how to implement the programs and services uniformly and systematically.

Board dysfunction has harmed the district in the past. The report stated there have been gains in board relations, but efforts should continue to improve relations.

“The board has continued to work on board relations since the last SACS visit in April 2011,” Wiley said. “The board continues to focus on student achievement by ensuring conversations and meetings are aligned to the district’s strategic improvement plan.”

The board engages in training sessions which are also included in retreats such as the session held Saturday. The training included discussions on effective board meetings, strategic planning, school board governance and facilities planning.

Another requirement is improved public and community relations, according to the report.

Wiley said the communications department was reorganized in 2011 as part of its reduction in force measures and communications services were handled by committee.

However, Superintendent Luvenia Jackson recently restructured the district’s organizational chart to include a defined communications department. Charles White was returned to the role of district spokesman this summer.

The report also gave a critique of the district’s “fragmented approach to determining efficiency and effectiveness of many of its instructional programs, practices and digital technology.”

“Clayton County Public Schools incorporates systemic and systematic processes and procedures for collecting, analyzing and applying data from multiple sources,” Wiley said.

She said benchmark tests are given at regular intervals throughout the year, in conjunction with school-level quizzes, in order to ensure the scope and sequence of instruction in core content areas is uniform district-wide.

Wiley said the test results together with classwork provide teachers and staff with a profile of student learning. She said administrators lead their staff in analyzing and interpreting data and in developing methods of instruction to address student strengths and weaknesses.

The district also compares assessment data with previous assessments in order to chart progress and identify trends as well as to compare itself with similar districts, she added. Teachers have been trained to create and disaggregate common assessment data by grade level and department in order to improve student achievement.

Wiley said personnel have access to various disparate data management systems such as Thinkgate, Acuity, Georgia Online Assessment System and the Georgia Student Longitudinal Data System.

The district is scheduled to report back to AdvancED in two years. Wiley said the response will be in the form of a narrative detailing work accomplished by the district in satisfying the requirements.

“We will continue to gather artifacts that support the narrative and will have them available for review by AdvancED,” she said.