Houston schools receive tentative accreditation

jmink@macon.comNovember 20, 2013 

PERRY -- It’s been a busy three days for Houston County schools, but the outcome is preliminary accreditation of the school system.

An AdvancED review team offered tentative accreditation and gave a positive critique of the school system Wednesday during a special meeting.

“We recognize that the school system is a great system,” said Mike Griffin, the lead evaluator. “There are a lot of things flowing in the right direction. It didn’t take us three days to recognize that.”

The accreditation will be official pending further review and final action by AdvancED. When the report was read, the audience erupted into applause.

“This has been a long process, and we have taken a good look at our system,” Superintendent Robin Hines said. “This is a good report. I’m really happy, and I couldn’t be more proud.”

During the past three days, a team interviewed 381 people, including administrators, teachers, students, parents and school board members. They also made 80 classroom observations, and one visit stood out to Griffin. He recalled visiting a group of students at Tucker Elementary who were quick to stick their hands in the air anytime he asked a question.

“It was a delightful experience, I assure you,” he said. “They were not bashful. They represented you well.”

The district received several scores, including ratings in four overall areas. Out of 400 points, the district received a 285 in educational quality, a 271 in teaching and learning impact, a 308 in leadership capacity and a 288 in resource utilization.

“You’re good stewards of the public’s resources,” Griffin said, adding the scores were simply based on what the team saw in three days and the district’s critique of itself.

In many cases, the evaluation team agreed with the district. The times that it disagreed were mainly when the district judged itself too harshly, and the accreditation team gave it a higher score than it gave itself, Griffin said.

The team gave the district three required actions. While Griffin said the system has plenty of goals, one such requirement was to develop more consistent goals, “to give you an ongoing pulse as to where you are,” he said.

The team also required the system to expand decision-making opportunities for all stakeholders. That involves, for example, giving people more opportunities to be involved in budgeting and capital projects. The third required action was to implement consistent grading and reporting policies across grade levels and classes.

“We wanted to give you (feedback) that is meaningful,” Griffin said. “We hope that the message here is we’re giving you feedback that will aid and abet that continual improvement process.”

To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 256-9751.

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