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Posted: March 26, 2014 8:31 p.m.

NCSS recommended to reaccreditated

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A PDF of the accreditation exit report from AdvancED, the private company that accreditates many school systems across the U.S. and internationally.

The Newton County School System is on its way to being reaccredited for another five years.

A review team from AdvancED, a private company evaluates schools across the U.S. and internationally, recommended the Newton County School System (NCSS) be reaccredited for another five years after conducting a three-day audit.

“As someone who visits schools and school systems, I always ask myself this question: ‘Would I send my children there?’ And I would tell you I would send my kids to the Newton County School System in a heartbeat,” said lead evaluator Ray Poplus, director AdvancED’s Louisiana office.

Poplus said the report about Newton County Schools will be finalized and submitted to AdvancED. After that, the NCSS will receive the report within 30-45 days. The NCSS will receive official accreditation in June if the AdvancED commission approves the findings.

The AdvancED team interviewed 239 people, including administrators (52), school board members (5), teachers (126), support staff (7), students (31) and parents and other community members (18). The team also observed 62 different learning environments as part of the audit. The team rated the school system based on both interview feedback and criteria measured while observing classrooms and other learning environments.

On a scale of 100 to 400, the NCSS received the following scores:
- index of educational quality (overall measure) – 312
- teaching and learning impact (based on measures of teachers and student performance) – 305
- leadership capacity (based on learning environments and feedback from stakeholders) – 317
- resource utilization (based on “active” learning environments) – 325

“Based upon our findings, we recommend that (the) Newton County School System be accredited for another cycle of five years, so congratulations,” Poplus said during his presentation of the team’s review at a special called school board meeting. “Congratulations to you for all the work and effort that you’ve put into this and for the work that you do every day on behalf of children. This is just a wholehearted recommendation here, no doubts at all.”

Poplus said the evaluators received positive feedback from interviewees who said employees have a passion for learning and the local community and provide good customer service.

Poplus said the NCSS excelled in four areas, which he termed “powerful practices,” including:
- developing policies and procedures that provide clear operational direction so the system and school can be effectively administered
- utilizing a structured process to recruit, employ, acclimate and retain staff who have the skills, knowledge, and commitment to the system’s mission and vision
- having unique partnerships with parents and other community stakeholders who support the vision and mission of the school system through meaningful participation in the education of children
- making a commitment to providing technology at all levels to support, manage and train students and staff members and improve performance.

However, he also gave the NCSS two required actions, which were to design and implement:
- a rigorous, continuous program of professional learning that is aligned with the system’s vision and mission to ensure employees are adequately trained
- a plan to ensure all professional and support staff members are trained to evaluate, analyze, interpret and use data to further the mission and vision of the system.

“I am so very proud of the hard work, dedication, and focus of the school system team,” said Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey in a press release.

Fuhrey said every employee contributed to the reaccreditation efforts, which includes the NCSS as a whole and each of its schools.

When asked about things she’s implemented as superintendent, Furhey said she only tried to enhance specific goals, including:
- ensuring students exiting second and third grades are reading at or above grade level, which helped the school receive more points for monitoring progress and providing feedback
- providing more opportunities for those who excel; Fuhrey said the classroom observations showed the NCSS was above target in this area
- engaging parents and the community, which she said was one of Poplus’ “powerful practices”

Though school still rarely fail to earn reaccreditation, failure has become more common in Georgia in recent years. Accreditation is a voluntary process, but ensures school systems meet certain standards. Though the specific effects vary, according to a variety of news reports, not meeting accreditation can at times affect scholarship opportunities – including requirements for the HOPE scholarship – and admission to college for students and affect school systems attendance and funding.

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