After a nearly yearlong comprehensive assessment of Westminster Public Schools (WPS) including more than 500 interviews and visits to 215 classrooms, AdvancEd announced last week that it is awarding Performance Accreditation to the District.
AdvancED is non-profit, non-partisan organization that conducts on-site external reviews of 32,000 PreK-12 schools and school systems across the United States and 70 other nations. The organization focuses on instruction and continuous improvement and will complement the Colorado Department of Education’s (CDE) Accountability and Accreditation process, which was paused last year by the state legislature.
The “stamp of approval”, delivered at last week’s Board of Education meeting was an important step for both Westminster Public Schools and AdvancED. “We have long believed that competency based education is the right way for students to learn, so we jumped at the chance to evaluate a district where personalized learning is used and educators are thinking outside the box,” said David Hurst, Deputy Chief Operations Officer. “Westminster Public Schools is definitely on the right track and should not return to business as usual.”
WPS’s Competency Based System (CBS) aims to eliminate social promotion by advancing students to the next learning level only after demonstrating mastery of a learning topic. CBS allows students to move forward at a faster pace, if appropriate, or to take more time to fully learn a topic or fill in a learning gap.
WPS began looking at the benefits of inviting AdvancED into the district last summer.
“We really needed to have an outside group of education experts take a critical look at the district and identify what we are doing well and what we can improve on,” said Superintendent Pam Swanson. “The accreditation is validation of CBS and our work, but one of the other great benefits of AdvancEd is their focus on rigor and continuous improvement.”
AdvancED was created through a merger of the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement (NCA CASI) and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement (SACS CASI)—and expanded through the addition of the Northwest Accreditation Commission (NWAC) in 2011.
Many of Colorado’s highest performing schools are accredited by AdvancEd including Mullen, Valor Christian, Cherry Creek and Regis High Schools.
During last week’s external review, 22 educational professional observed classrooms across the district and interviewed students, parents, teachers, administrators, Board of Education members and community leaders to reach a consensus view about the district’s strengths and weaknesses. Prior to AdvancEd’s visit, the District participated in a preparation process that included data analysis, explanations of processes and procedures, community surveys and an executive summary.
At Wednesday night’s Board of Education meeting, Hurst provided the Board with a broad overview of the team’s findings and announced that the review team recommended accreditation for Westminster Public Schools. A detailed report and formal letter of accreditation will be sent to the District in June after a final review by the National AdvancED Accreditation Commission.
“We want to stand with districts like Westminster Pubic Schools,” said Hurst. “You need to build upon your success while expanding your practices to move from good to great.”
Swanson was pleased by the pending accreditation, but noted that AdvancEd found examples where the District could and should do better. “We still have a lot of work to do in our schools and at all levels of the organization,” she said.
More information about AdvancEd can be found at http://www.advanc-ed.org/.
You can see the presentation to the Board of Education here.
The power point presentation can be viewed here.