By Kathryn Schiliro, Managing Editor

The Morgan County School System is once again up for accreditation by AdvancED, the parent company of the more commonly known SACS, or Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Work on the reaccreditation process, which happens every five years, has already begun at both the school and system levels with internal self-assessments, requiring critical evaluation of the system and schools’ vision, strategies, priorities, leadership, programs and resources. Personnel are auditing the schools and system “against a set of research-based quality standards,” according to Assistant Superintendent Sarah Burbach, who shared this information with the county Board of Education (BOE) at their meeting Monday.

“They’re assessing us by standards of best practices,” Superintendent Dr. Ralph Bennett said. “They’re looking at best practices and how we get to that point. These are accepted standards of performance across the country.”

Part of this internal assessment will include surveys for parents, students and staff at each school. Parents’ surveys are expected to be launched this week, on Thursday, and will be open for two weeks for parents to complete. The survey is available online, through the system’s website, www.morgan.k12.ga.us; in written form and in Spanish at school and system offices.

Once these surveys are complete, the feedback will be analyzed and added to the internal report, which will also include a detailed plan for school improvement – which the system is already in the process of completing through their work with GLISI (Georgia Leadership Institute for School Improvement); they received a three-year, $25,000 grant from the GLISI board for a pilot program in conjunction with GLISI focusing on “continuous improvement” driven by a process that includes examining data, identifying the root-cause of any problems (a step largely overlooked), and then addressing corrections and improvements; literacy improvement is one of the program’s main goals – a student performance data analysis and then an executive summary of the findings.

In addition to the internal review, an external assessment will be conducted by AdvancED representatives – four of them from all over the country – who will visit the system in January. These representatives will review the internal data; interview system, school, BOE, parent, student and community representatives; visit the schools; and then provide an exit report with recommendations. If actions are required, the system will have one to two years to complete them.

External, objective validation through AdvancED accreditation matters. Student transfer credits are accepted from one AdvancED-accredited school to another. Further, accreditation legitimizes a system, which can affect access to student loans and scholarships, and students getting into state colleges and even military programs, Bennett told the BOE.

And, frankly, “Students deserve the very best educational program we can give them,” Burbach said.

AdvancED serves more than 30,000 public and private schools across the U.S. and in 70-plus countries, a total of more than 16 million students. “Accreditation is designed to distinguish schools adhering to a set of educational standards that drive student performance and continuous improvement in education. The organizational effectiveness of our entire school system will be examined through rigorous protocols and research-based processes – our programs, the cultural context, the community of stakeholders – to determine how well the parts work together to meet the needs of our students,” according to Burbach’s report.

Parent Surveys Parent surveys are part of the internal review for SACS accreditation. Surveys are available online this week. Written surveys and surveys in Spanish are also available. Contact Sarah Burbach: 706-752-4600.