Chambers County schools accredited for five more years

Published 6:00 pm Friday, March 22, 2019

LaFAYETTE — The Chambers County School District has been accredited for five more years, according to information presented by Superintendent Kelli Hodge at Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting.

The school district was reviewed by AdvancED, a nonprofit, non-governmental organization that accredits primary and secondary schools throughout the United States and internationally.

The district was reviewed on several points under three sections — leadership capacity, learning capacity and resource capacity. Within those sections, the district was given a result on several subsections of exceeds expectations, meets expectations, emerging and needs improvements.

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Hodge gave a realistic report to the board Wednesday, saying she’s glad for the accreditation, but she also knows there are things the district has to continue to work on to be better.

“I am not disappointed,” she said. “I am not over the top. It was not the most perfect report we could have gotten, but I am very happy.”

District’s Grades

The first section the district was graded on leadership capacity. This was the district’s best section when reviewed by AdvancED.

The leadership capacity domain includes its commitment to its purpose and direction, the effectiveness of leadership to help the district realize its objectives, the ability to engage stakeholders in meaningful ways and implement strategies to improve performance by teachers and students.

Under leadership capacity, the district received three marks of exceeding expectations and no marks of needing improvement.

“That is from teacher leaders, principals to central office directors, to superintendents to school board,” Hodge said. “That is all the leadership in the district. I was so proud of this.”

She said this was one of the district’s lower sections the last time it was reviewed. However, this was the only area the district received marks of exceeds expectations and the only area where the district didn’t get marks of needing improvement.

“If things are happening in the leadership area, then it will bleed down to the others areas,” Hodge said. “So, I am excited about that.”

The learning capacity domain is where the district received the most criticism and had room for improvement, according to AdvancED.

This area is based on teacher/student relationships, expectations and standards in the classroom, challenging curriculum, quality instruction to enable successful learning and assessments to measure progress.

The district had five standards that were marked as needing improvement. Hodge said all the points stated align with the district’s strategic plan.

The report said the district needs to improve the learning culture to promote creativity, innovation and collaborative problem-solving. Additionally, it said the district needs to improve in implementing curriculums based on high expectation and prepare students for the next level.

“We teach the standards but those are the minimum, so I can’t argue that our expectations aren’t high enough,” Hodge said. “I know we teach the standards, but I also know the standards are where you start and that we have to go beyond.”

The report said the district needs to improve on implementing a process to ensure the curriculum is aligned to standards and best practices.

The report said the district needs to improve its communication about the learning process.

Hodge agreed with this assessment saying parents know how to read a report card, but asked if the district communicates results in any other way. She said the district doesn’t do a great job at talking about standards outside of assigning letter grades.

“We give report cards that grades assignments that doesn’t necessarily tell parents what is the standard that you are teaching,” she said.

The final area where the district needed improvement was that the system needs to continuously assess its program and organizational conditions to improve learning. Hodge said this comment goes back to all the previous points made by the report.

The final section the district was graded on was for resource capacity. That section ensures resources are distributed equally so the needs of students and support and professional staff are addressed.

Room for improvement within this section cited the district’s professional learning structure and expectations to promote collaboration and student performance.

Hodge said the district creates a professional learning environment within individual schools, but it doesn’t do a lot to collaborate across schools or grade levels.

AdvancED said the district needs to better integrate digital resources into teaching to improve professional practices and student performance.

Hodge said the district is $240,000 away from having a mobile one-to-one in the school district, meaning a portable digital device for each student. She said the district should be there by Oct. 1.

“We have the digital resources but not necessarily in an innovate research kind of way,” she said. “They may get on a program, which is just a worksheet on a computer, but they are not using it to create, which is what they would like to see and what we would like to see.”

The final mark needing improvement from AdvancED is that the district needs to better provide access to resources and materials to support the curriculum, programs and the needs of the students, staff and the district.

Hodge said the school district is a rural system that will always have needs it can’t afford.

Equitable learning environment

Another measurement AdvancED uses to evaluate school districts for accreditation is the Effective Learning Environments Observation Tool, or eleot.

The observations were conducted in the classroom for a minimum of 20 minutes, which considers the level of embeddedness, quality and complexity and number of students engaged.

AdvancED conducted 54 eleots, but the principals within the district did 834 eleots of their own within the district, Hodge said. 

Chambers County scored a 2.95 in equitable learning environment from AdvancED, and the national average is 2.86. Hodge said the principals averaged a 3.08 across the district.

“We were above the nation, but our principals scored us at a 3.08 so what that tells us is we may be inflating our scores a bit,” she said. “We have to dig more into that data for us.”

The district scored 2.76 in high expectations learning and the national average is 3.02. Hodge said the principals scored the district at a 2.96. She said the earlier metrics back up that the district needs to work on higher expectations.

In digital learning, the district scored 2.03, while the national average is 1.50. 

The total Index of Education Quality score, which is a measure of overall performance based on the standards and criteria was 275.16.

According to the report, a score in the range of 225-300 says the district has several standards to improve, but it’s using results to make improvements and demonstrate sustainability.

An IEQ of 275 and above shows the district is beginning to engage in practices that are sustained over time and are becoming ingrained in the culture of the institution.

“We are in the highest area. There are standards we need to work on, but when I saw this, I celebrated,” Hodge said. “There are great things going on and there are areas we need to work on. We will take this plan and compare it to our strategic plan and see what we need to tweak and make adjustments.”