Local schools pass accreditation check

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN LAURA CAMPBELL
Accreditation status is unofficially a thumbs-up for the three schools in Unified School District 410, following meetings held last month with the state accreditation team, administrators said.

As it does every five years, the Kansas State Board of Education sent a team to meet with the faculty of each of the USD 410 buildings Oct. 18-19 to determine accreditation status, said superintendent Gordon Mohn.


Accreditation is a school’s “license to continue operating,” Mohn said.


The visiting team evaluated each building’s profile, a snapshot of its performance over the past five years, he said.


Each school has a building improvement team consisting of about five teachers and the principal, that collected and organized data to present in the profile, he said.


The data chart the schools’ performance and progress for the past five years. This includes scores of annual student assessment tests, attendance and graduation rates, and evidence of violence reduction and staff development, Mohn said.


Business teacher Corey Burton, chairman of the high school’s building improvement team, said he led staff meetings to prepare for the visits. He said the staff went through the building profile to check for accuracy, look for trends in the data and make generalizations about school performance.


The building profile is “the end result of all your work,” said Dale Honeck, principal of the high school. “It proves to the people evaluating you that you’re doing what you said you’re doing, students are getting better, and you can prove it by test results.”


Each school met with the accreditation team for a couple of hours during the site visits to report on their building profile, he said.


“(You) brag about the success of your school, and you hope that you can, as you brag, show that you’re backing it up with data,” Honeck said of these meetings.


The team listened to the schools’ presentations, asked questions and then gave recommendations on what could be changed over the next five years, Honeck said.


Pat Call, principal of the elementary school, said he was pleased about the meeting with the accreditation team.


“I think what they saw was we were on the right track and we’re moving forward,” Call said. “We just need to modify a little bit, from what they see. I don’t see us doing too much different.”


Evan Yoder, the middle school principal, said the team was complimentary.


“They were very impressed that our teachers knew what was going on,” he said. “Our teachers had done a tremendous amount of work.”


Yoder said it is a “valuable process for all the teachers,” forcing them to look closely at test scores to find areas in which to improve.


Mohn said in recent years the schools have raised scores, which were already above state and national averages.


“One of the things the team asked us to do is to try to focus our activities more on student measurements of what we’ve accomplished,” he said. “The implementation of a program doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve had an impact on students.”


The next step in the continuing accreditation process is to draft a new improvement plan for the next five-year cycle, using the input of the visiting team for areas to work on, Mohn said.


The schools have 18 months in which to compose the plan, he said, choosing goals for improvement within three sub-areas such as reading, writing and math.


The teachers’ job is then to learn and incorporate strategies in the classroom for meeting the goals in chosen areas and to chart progress through testing, Mohn said.


Parents and other individuals from the Hillsboro community are also involved in the accreditation process through site councils at each building, he said.


“Those site councils will have input into the next improvement plan.”


Honeck said the accreditation process, which has since 1991 used a system called Quality Performance Accreditation, is a good one.


“It takes a lot of time,” he said. “Sometimes it gets frustrating trying to keep all the data gathered.”


But the process is a helpful means of self-assessment, he said.


“We have a good school,” Mohn said. “We need to find places where we can get better.


“That’s the whole point. It’s continuous improvement.”

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