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Crawford clears hurdle for district accreditation

Corporation to join just 25 school districts in state to be accredited

March 02, 2011
Three years of meetings, defining standards and internal review ended with smiles last Wednesday, when the Crawford County Community School Corp. learned it had been recommended to receive district accreditation.

Crawford County will join just 25 other school corporations in the state, and just four south of Indianapolis, to have earned district accreditation through AdvancED, the world's largest education community.

The announcement came during an exit conference at the administration building following three days of inspection by a five-person Quality Assurance Review team made up of educational professionals from throughout Indiana and Illinois that not only examined Crawford County's data, including its procedures and policies, but interviewed three school board members, administrators responsible for a total of 23 different jobs, 81 teachers, 21 support staff members, 23 parents, business leaders and community members, and 53 students.

What the QAR team discovered, said Cameron Carlson, an assistant professor in the Educational Administration and Higher Education Department at Southern Illinois University and the team's chair, was impressive.

"Where you're at right now is phenomenal," he said.

Crawford County officials had expected to learn during the exit conference whether the corporation would be recommended for accreditation, but they didn't expect to know at which of the four levels — accredited, on advisement, warned or probation — until later. They were thrilled when Carlson told them the QAR team recommended accreditation at the highest level.

"We do encourage you to celebrate your accomplishment," Carlson said as school officials, including members of Crawford County's district accreditation committee, erupted with excitement.

The QAR team looked at seven standards — vision and purpose; governance and leadership; teaching and learning; documenting and using results; resources and support systems; stakeholder communications and relationships; commitment to continuous improvement — as part of its review, assigning one or four rubrics to each.

All but one of the standards received the second-highest classification, operational, which indicates the corporation is demonstrating the standards and using practices commonly found in other schools. The other standard, "governance and leadership," received the top classification, highly functional, indicating Crawford County is exceptional in its demonstration of the standard and exhibits practices not commonly found in other schools.

The QAR team commended the school corporation for being inspired by a shared vision that "fosters a commitment to serve students while building community-wide support for the school system. This commitment provides hope for the continued successes of its students and its school system. A spirit of collaboration and shared leadership fosters a 'can-do, no-excuses' attitude and drives the system forward to achieve excellence."

"The one crucial word from that that jumps out to me is hope," Carlson said.

The QAR team also praised the corporation for having a leadership team consisting of the central office, principals, teachers and community members that does what it needs to acquire the needed resources to carry out its mission to serve all students. Effective use of grants and fiscal practices, human capital, upgraded facilities, increased technology, increased course offerings and savings invests in the students' futures while providing the smoother operation of the school system and efficient delivery of aligned curricula across the system, the report stated.

"I'm not even sure what to say about that. That's just as impressive as heck," Carlson said, calling that willingness to do what needs to be done to benefit students "awe-inspiring and breathtaking."

Part of the QAR team's job is to list areas in which the corporation needs improvement. These areas, defined as "required actions," must be addressed by the corporation as part of the accreditation criteria. The team provided Crawford County with three required actions:

•Develop written transition plans to assist all students who move from building to building and through key transition points across the system. Plans must include communication, transfer of records and induction programs for new students and families.

•Develop written transition plans for a faculty induction process that assists newly hired and transitioning personnel to acclimate to the new job responsibilities, local improvement processes and unique building cultures within the corporation.

•Define an instructional vision and develop plans to meet the instructional vision that include how student performance data informs improvement goals, targeted professional development and necessary teacher support to help teachers acquire new methodologies to achieve the instructional vision.

Before the QAR team's visit, Crawford County Superintendent Dr. Mark Eastridge said he hoped the team would offer recommendations, as the corporation's goal is to continuously be improving. On Monday, he said he still felt that way, explaining the recommendations ensure that the corporation will keep working to better itself. Accreditation isn't the end of the process, it's just the "stop, pause, celebrate" part, he said.

The QAR team now will provide its findings to the AdvancED Accreditation Commission, which is expected to make the accreditation official. The school corporation will receive a written report of the findings within 30 days.

The accreditation will be good for five years, at which time another QAR team will visit the corporation.

Eastridge praised everyone in the corporation, saying there are a lot of people with the same purpose of improving education, as well as its district accreditation committee, which was led by Milltown Elementary School Principal Tami Geltmaker. While he is pleased that the district received high marks, "it was even more outstanding because this was our first go at district accreditation," he said.

This is the most recent academic honor for the school system. Milltown Elementary was named a federal No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon School in 2006 and then a Four-Star School by the state. Leavenworth Elementary also was named a Blue Ribbon School in 2009, as was English Elementary in 2010.

A ceremony celebrating the English award will be held at the school tomorrow (Thursday) at 10 a.m.

EES Blue Ribbon ceremony tomorrow

A celebration honoring English Elementary School having been named a 2010 federal No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon School will be held tomorrow (Thursday) at the school.

The ceremony, at 10 a.m. in the gymnasium, will honor the staff and students. In addition, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Tony Bennett will speak.

All English Elementary alumni, community members and parents are invited to join staff and students.

English is the third Crawford County elementary school to receive the honor, joining Milltown and Leavenworth.

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