Garry Rickard, AdvancED Team Lead Evaulator, stated that Fort Smith Public Schools are “recommended for accreditation with highest honors” by the review team.
The Fort Smith Public Schools District is proud to hold accreditation from AdvancED, the world’s largest education community. Every five years, FSPS undergoes an extensive assessment process in order to renew its AdvancED accreditation. The comprehensive program of evaluation and external review is supported by research-based standards and is designed to help districts and education providers continue to improve.
In mid-October, AdvancED sent an external review team comprised of professional peers to conduct a review of Fort Smith Public Schools. The four-day process included interviews with students, parents and teachers, as well as classroom observations and discussions with school administration. The goal of the process was to deliver valuable feedback and direction for improvement and to recommend re-accreditation.
AdvancED serves more than 30,000 public and private schools and districts across the United States and in more than 70 countries that educate more than 16 million students. To receive accreditation, districts are evaluated on how well they prepare students to succeed in a “constantly evolving and diverse world” and must meet standards for quality in five areas:
- Purpose and Direction
- Governance and Leadership
- Teaching and Assessing for Learning
- Resources and Support Systems
- Using Results for Continuous Improvement
On October 17, the AdvancED Review Team presented its external review exit report to the District Board of Education and administration. Garry Rickard, Lead Evaluator, walked through the accreditation process and explained that findings are based on three factors: assessment of standards and indicators, which includes both a self-assessment and an external review team assessment; student performance results; and stakeholder perceptions, including those of students, teachers and parents.
Based on a four point rubric, FSPS scored the following: Purpose and Direction-3.25, Governance and Leadership-3.36; Teaching and Assessing for Learning-3.12; Resources and Support Systems-3.20; and Using Results for Continuous Improvement-3.14. Rickard noted that it was unusual for the scores to break above the three point mark.
Rickard praised the District, citing several “Powerful Practices,” such as its Central Office Support Team (COST), its “robust and effective” staff development and its focus on extra-curricular activity. Rickard also commented on the overall positive school culture, the presence of a curriculum specialist in core subject areas and the strong working relationship between the Board of Education and Superintendent. He cited the Partners in Education program as a key strength that many teachers, parents and students emphasized during the interview process. Lastly, Rickard noted that FSPS had a balanced budget and sound financial allocation of its resources. He added that the District’s financial practices were to be commended, especially in a time where many districts are forced to sacrifice extra-curricular programs and slash salaries due to the difficult economy.
The team did note one area where FSPS could improve in terms of communication., recommending that the District provide “additional research-based training to staff and stakeholders regarding the effects of poverty in the educational community.” With more than 70% of its students qualifying for free and reduced-priced meals, the evaluators believed that teachers, parents and the community as a whole could greatly benefit if they had a better understanding of the challenges high rates of poverty pose on a District.
FSPS will be granted official accreditation status upon approval by the AdvancED commission. The District will be formally notified by June 2013.