All five schools in the district recently participated in an AdvancED accreditation program to gain a better understanding of the district’s strengths and weaknesses.

Superintendent Michael Johnson said the AdvancED program allows the district to get a sense of what they’re doing well and what can be improved upon. The assessment focused on five key areas: governance, curriculum, student growth, resources and assessment ability.

Johnson explained that the school will not receive an official report from the assessment for several more weeks, but they were given an overview of what the AdvancED team found during their visit to the district Jan. 23-25.

The overview contains what the team determined the school was doing well, such as student/teacher relationships and a focus on the arts and music, Johnson said. Also in the presentation, AdvancED praised Bexley for having a trusting and caring culture throughout the whole district.

In the overview presentation, they outlined a few areas that the school is supposed to address before their next accreditation, like engaging with newly hired staff and addressing the unique learning needs of each student. Another noted area for improvement was the need for a student evaluation plan with locally made standardized assessments.

Johnson added that there is a two-year deadline for the improvements that need to be made. He said the school then must prove that those improvements have been made and they then get factored into the next accreditation score.

The team that conducted the AdvancED assessment and wrote the report, Johnson said, was made up of professionals from the educational field. He said the team included a principal, superintendent, an out-of-state expert and two “co-leaders” who were in charge organizing the team’s visit of the district in January.

One of the ways the AdvancED team conducted their assessment was by sitting in on classes and observing the students, not the teachers, Johnson said.

“They were looking for validation of student engagement,” he said. “Were the students working collaboratively? Was it obvious that there was a connection with the goal of the classroom and what they were learning? It wasn’t about how the teacher was teaching it.”

The team was able to complete approximately 400 classroom rubrics and interview more than 100 staff and community members, Johnson said.

He explained that the accreditation has been done every five years.

“Bexley, specifically the high school, has been accredited since 1923,” Johnson added.

He added that the program is optional and comes at a small cost to the district. It’s done in addition to the Ohio Department of Education accreditation, he said.

Johnson explained that AdvancED holds the school to a higher standard than the minimum state requirement.

The program isn’t done often since it’s an extensive process, Johnson said, but he believes the accreditation is an important value to the community.  

In addition to the external AdvancED team, social studies teacher Scott King-Owen acted as the on-site coordinator who prepared for the team’s visit.

King-Owen explained that the outside team asks the school to evaluate its own performance, and then the team assesses that self-evaluation.

He said it was an extensive and time-consuming process to prepare for the visit and that he would occasionally work eight to 10 hours on Saturdays. He added that the first two years of the process were mostly spent becoming familiar with how the evaluation works.

Part of learning the evaluation process, King-Owen said, was mastering the five-standard rubric and analyzing the data.

“Prepping for their visit included gathering documents that would be evidence for our performance,” King-Owen said. “For example, one of the standards involves teaching and learning, and for that document collection process I gathered information that would show how well we are teaching and learning here at Bexley.”

Johnson said that the district plans to continue the AdvancED accreditation program because it demonstrates the extra step that Bexley is willing to take to help the schools become the best that they can be.

King-Owen said that he will continue as the teacher involved with AdvancED because now that he understands the process, he knows what should be changed in the future. He added that the process never really ends and that he has already started preparing for the next evaluation that will take place in five years. He said that the evaluation, although extensive, is necessary.

“You think you do well, because it’s Bexley, but if you don’t sit down and systematically examine whether you’re really doing well or not, how can you be sure?” he said.

Published in the Bexley High School Torch Feb. 2017