James Brown is a retired deputy superintendent of schools from Tallahassee.
But for a handful of days earlier this week, he led a review team with AdvancedED through an inspection of Bryan County Schools as part of the accreditation process.
During that span the team conducted 154 interviews, talking to everyone from school board members and administrators to parents, teachers and students.
The review team also observed 45 classes at four schools and examined the system’s educational policies across the board.
Wednesday afternoon at a called meeting of the Bryan County Board of Education in Black Creek, Brown congratulated dozens of teachers, administrators and the school board for the system’s first-ever districtwide accreditation.
It’s a first because in the past, Bryan County Schools were accredited individually.
After Wednesday’s meeting, Brown called Bryan County Schools “a very good system.”
“We’re noticing a cultural transformation here, and if they continue on that path it will get even better, and better, and better and better,” he said.
AdvancedEd, formerly the Southern Assocation of Colleges and Schools, only gives out two passing grades — accreditation and accreditation under review.
Bryan County Schools is accredited, though the review team’s findings still have to be approved by the AdvancedED Accreditation Commission, which meets again in June.
But Brown was confident Bryan County Schools will be accredited.
“I will tell you that I’m batting a thousand,” he told the crowd assembled in Black Creek.
How did Bryan do?
First, the bad news: AdvancedEd is required to find areas that need improvement, called “required actions” and districts have between two to five years to improve.
For Bryan County Schools, AdvancedEd found two “required actions” and both are aimed at administration.
The first requires the BoE speed up its implantation of a process for updating board policies. The second requires the system standardize grading policies across the district.
Both issues have already been targeted by administrators and the BoE, which has been grinding through its policy manual while also discussing a districtwide grading policy.
As for the good news: Brown said Bryan County Schools stood out in a number of areas, known in educational jargon as “powerful practices.”
Brown listed eight “powerful practices,” including the district’s expansion of professional learning for teachers; forums for stakeholders to work with the superintendent on decisions impacting the district; and the establishment of a formal convocation at the beginning of the school year to set the tone and increase communication.
In the classroom, the system’s move toward providing advanced classes to all students in the district, regardless of grade level, and work to help kids who struggle to the level of higher-achieving students were praised.
In addition, Advanced Ed’s team highlighted the system’s strategic planning process, its leadership development program for aspiring administrators and its parent-engagement processes also were praised.
As for scoring, the system earned a 276 or better on AdvancedEd’s four indexes of educational quality, which go from a low of 100 to a high of 400.
The system’s highest score on the index was 300 for leadership capacity. Its lowest was the 276 for teaching impact.
At Thursday’s school board meeting, BoE members handed out plenty of praise in the wake of the team’s findings — especially to Dr. Brad Anderson and Julie Howard, the two administrators who led the accreditation effort, and to teachers in the classroom.
“The board was pleased with the outcome of our review at (Wednesday’s) meeting and greatly appreciate all the staff, especially the teachers that are producing these results day in and day out whether we have the AdvancedEd team on site or not,” BoE
Chairman Eddie Warren said before Thursday’s meeting. “Our staff continues to strive everyday to make the educational experience in Bryan County better and better.”
Warren said the system will use the AdvancedEd report to “continue our advancement in academic achievement.
Superintendent Dr. Paul Brooksher said accreditation helps keep the system focused on its mission.
“Having the accountability structure of accreditation in place provides an additional and appropriate charge for safekeeping the integrity and identity of system,” said Brooksher, who in a release said AdvancedEd’s team “complimented the school system for its commitment to a mission and vision focused decision making process, affirming that Bryan County Schools is effectively partnering with stakeholders to provide high quality educational experiences for students. Our leadership is continually in the process of improvement.”
For more information about the AdvancED ESA accreditation process, visit www.advanc-ed.org.
To see Browns’ PowerPoint presentation, go to bryancountynews.net.