Every year a new class of graduates from Leesville receive their diplomas in June, signifying the four years they spent in high school. However, students may be unaware of the process that guarantees their diploma actually represents learning, that the diploma has meaning.
Accreditation is a process by which schools are reviewed and evaluated for their quality of education, leadership, improvement, and several other factors. Receiving accreditation allows a school to give out diplomas and ensures to colleges and employers that the students obtained a legitimate education.
AdvancED, a non-profit organization, provides nationally recognized accreditation focusing on student performance and school improvement.
On April 6 and 7 AdvancEd with be visiting Leesville, observing classes and interviewing students, teachers, and administration alike as part of their accreditation process.
Accreditation is renewed every five years. In order to be accredited, schools must meet the standards, be evaluated by a team of professionals outside of the school system, and implement a continuous process of school improvement.
At the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year, students, parents and staff took a survey. The administration used that information, as well as past student data (test scores, etc.) to compile a document addressing Leesville’s strengths and weaknesses in five areas: Governance/Leadership, Purpose and Direction, Teaching and Assessing for Learning, Resources and Support Systems and Using Results for Continuous Improvement.
Currently, administration is forming focus groups to be reviewed by the External Review Team, which will consist of students, teachers, faculty and administration, parents and community members too. Focus groups are intended to bring all areas of Leesville together to collaborate and strengthen the five areas.
“[AdvancED] makes a distinction between parent involvement and involvement by adults who are not parents…they could be businesses, they could be neighbors, they could be boosters, they could be all sorts of different kinds of people. So they’ll try to get a broad spectrum of responses to similar topics,” said Dr. Muttillo, Leesville’s principal.
Aside from working in focus groups, the AdvancED review team will also be observing what goes on from day-to-day. Classroom observations are another major procedure, so they will be walking around the building and auditing classes, looking to see that students are working hard and engaged and that other processes such as discipline and communication are effective.
The process is meant to not only emphasize the meeting of standards, but also continually improving upon them each year.
Dr. Muttillo identifies two areas: an achievement gap between some groups of students and graduation rate (although that has increased over the last two years).
However, another area of improvement administration is beginning to take a look at is personalized education and differentiation of learning between students. Muttillo said, “When we walk into a classroom, do we see everyone doing the exact same thing in the exact same way or is there flexibility in how students learn and show that they’ve learned?”
Accreditation is meant to ensure students are provided a quality education, rigorous, diverse and sound curriculums, wide range of student activity and support services, parent and community involvement and better transition from grade-to-grade.
“I think the benefit is more in the process than it is in the result,” said Muttillo. That process is one of constant and continuous improvement. “I think, in the end, most high schools stay accredited and most districts stay accredited. You need to be an accredited high school for students to apply to colleges and get into colleges, but we expect that we’ll meet that standard. But I think what’s most beneficial for us is the process.”