District and early learning program both receive recommendations for accreditation
November 21, 2016
After interviewing 207 stakeholders and visiting 48 classrooms, the six-member AdvancED external review team provided Moorhead Area Public Schools with a recommendation for accreditation at the end of the three-day review on Nov. 2. The district’s early learning program also received a recommendation for accreditation. These recommendations are being forwarded to the AdvancED Accreditation Commission for final approval.
The review team used AdvancED’s standards as they examined district and building documents (policies, plans and reports), interviewed stakeholders (parents, community members, teachers, administrators and board members) and visited classrooms. The external review is a process to guide continuous improvement with a focus on the impact of teaching and learning, capacity of leadership, and use of resources.
Under teaching and learning, the review team highlighted the importance of arts as well as academics and athletics and noted the observance of objectives posted in classrooms to give students a roadmap for where they are going.
The AdvancED review team recognized Moorhead Area Public Schools for areas of strength and provided areas for the district to focus on for continued improvement. The review team identified powerful practices, which are activities/items that other school districts should replicate to provide a high quality education. The district’s powerful practices identified by the review team are:
- Family, student and community collaborative engagement;
- Communication to stakeholders and reporting of student progress;
- Autonomy given to district and school leaders to set and meet improvement goals and manage operations; and
- Long-range resource management, which includes passing the 2015 bond referendum to provide facilities needed for growing student enrollment.
You all work together,” said Sharon Knudson, leader reviewer. “What you have here, you have to value. It is part of your culture.”
As part of the review process, all districts are provided improvement priorities by their external review teams. These are areas the district must research, develop action plans, and implement over the next two years. Improvement priorities identified by the review team are:
- Curriculum, instruction and assessment alignment to ensure secondary schools will know skills students will have learned and use of data-driven decision making to diagnose, adjust instruction and meet student needs;
- Initiatives and innovations and the need to set specific long- and short-term goals for academic excellence by focusing on fewer initiatives; and
- Continuous improvement and conditions that support learning, which focuses on the framework and timeline needed to maintain the five-year accreditation process.
Knudson noted that more initiatives are not better, but encouraged that district to target initiatives that are going to make a difference in student learning.
“In continuous improvement there are some things that are better for kids so you have to do them,” she said.
These improvement items will be reviewed by administration and processes put into place within two years to fulfill the accreditation requirements from AdvancED.
Learning environments were reviewed during the classroom visits to score on the Eleot (effective learning environment observation tool), which scores the equitable learning environment, high expectations environment, supportive learning environment, active learning environment, progress monitoring and feedback environment, well-managed learning environment, and digital learning environment. Overall Knudson said the district scored a strong average.
On the Index of Education Quality, the review team scored the district on impact of teaching and learning on student performance; capacity of leadership to guide and ensure effectiveness in carrying out strategic direction of institution; utilization of resources to meet diverse needs of students and institution; use as a tool for formative analysis and continuous improvement; and connection for the conditions, processes, and practices to evidence including student performance. The district’s overall score was 263.17. A score of 225 or lower would have meant not being recommended for full accreditation.
Additionally an exit report was provided for the district’s early learning program. The separate accreditation rating for the early learning center is recognized by Minnesota Parent Aware. The focus is on care and safety of children, quality of learning environments, effectiveness of instruction and curriculum, capacity of leadership and use of resources.
Thirteen stakeholders were interviewed specifically about the early learning program. There are nine criteria to be met and all that were pertinent were met. The environmental rating for early learning was 3.08 out of 4.0 overall. The early learning program also received the recommendation for accreditation.
A powerful practice is the use of Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS), which is implemented with fidelity at Probstfield. Consistent language and consistent expectations for behaviors were highlighted.
An improvement priority for the early learning program is to review the school arrival and departure procedures and communicate them to parents/guardians to assure all parents comply with safety procedures.
Two other items noted as opportunities for improvement were to review hand washing with students and staff and to include materials in the school that reflect diversity of ethnicity, language, family composition and ability.
The review team thanked the district for its support and effort during the external review. Superintendent Lynne Kovash also expressed her appreciation to the community members and staff members who were part of the process.
AdvancED is a leader in providing continuous improvement and accreditation services to more than 32,000 institutions worldwide. Accreditation is a protocol for institutions committed to sustainable improvement, builds capacity of the system and its schools to increase and sustain student learning, and improves effectiveness and efficiency throughout the system.