DeKalb County High School will be recommended for re-accreditation by a study committee with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools who visited the school last week. But while DCHS drew praise for advancements, the committee found a need for more space and better technology.
"Plan a new school that will hold all the students and provide adequate technology for them," said Committee Chairperson Karen Garner.
The committee, made up of four Middle Tennessee educators, met with teachers, parents, and students in conducting its two day review last Thursday and Friday.
"We determine the institution's effectiveness in meeting the requirements of accreditation," said Garner, who spoke with WJLE Friday at DCHS.
"We were here Thursday and Friday all day but prior to that we had received the school's self assessment which covered five standards, things like the administration governance of the school, teaching and learning and how that happens in the school, and other aspects. We studied those and observed eighteen classrooms. We found good class work and good class management. We also interviewed many people here at school to come up with the preliminary findings for our report which will be that we will recommend that the school be re-accredited by the state SACS committee," she said.
While Garner said DCHS has earned high marks, there are areas that need to be addressed. "The one thing we found lacking was up to date and adequate facilities and technology. I think most people in this community know that," she said.
A SACS re-accreditation committee review is conducted every five years to determine if member schools have made sufficient progress and to make recommendations for improvement. "This is a five year study. When the next five year study comes along they (DCHS) will be checked to see how they have progressed. If SACS deems it necessary they might check in two years to see if any of these things are being addressed sufficiently," said Garner.
A final decision on SACS Re-accreditation of DCHS is expected by summer. "Our recommendation goes to the state. They will look at all parts of the report and decide before June," Garner concluded.
On Friday afternoon, Garner and members of the committee reviewed their findings with Director of Schools Mark Willoughby, DCHS Principal Patrick Cripps, Assistant Principals Kathy Bryant and David Gash, along with several teachers at the school and members of the Central office staff.
"The process: There is an analysis and evaluation," said Garner. "The school analyzes themselves. We provide the evaluation and hopefully we can say it's valuable feedback for you and a direction for improvement. Here's what we have done the last couple of days. Overall, we have conducted 87 interviews with administrators, teachers, support staff, students, and parents. We went into eighteen classrooms and did a minimum of twenty minutes of observations in each of those eighteen classrooms. When we go in and do observations, there's about thirty points that we look for. It's a four point scale. Anything scored three and above is great. Guess where you weren't three and above? Digital learning environment. Technology. Does that surprise anyone? No. You had a 3.57 on "supportive learning environment". That's a great score. You had a 3.47 score on "well managed learning environment". Another great score. There is nothing for you to worry about on those scores except for technology and that is not in the teacher's hands. We were very happy with what we saw. Overall, those are good scores for you," she said.
"Powerful practices. This is where we brag on you," Garner continued. " The faculty and administration are approachable and valued by the students and parents alike. Teachers participate in collaborative learning scheduled within the school day at "Tiger Time". That's a great thing. I know you are still working on that. Instructional practices have been implemented to meet the needs of all students. Counseling, assessment, referral, education and career planning exceed the student and parent expectations. They all have said anytime they ask for something, for scholarship applications, etc, there was always more given, which is a great thing," she said.
Recommendations for improvement. "Some required actions that we see. Develop a plan to respond to intervention challenges. That's where you are working on that "Tiger Time" plan. It's there. Now fine tune it and get it there. Include your team evaluations to determine professional development. You can recognize your needs and just take it from there to plan the professional developments. Where do teachers need it? That will help you focus a little bit," said Garner.
"Plan a new school that will hold all the students and provide adequate technology for them and design your learning environment to include all of these things. Higher expectations, exemplars, and formative assessments," she said.
"Based on our findings, we recommend you for accreditation. That is our recommendation. AdvancED makes the final determination. They will look at every score on everything we submit within the next couple of weeks and they will make the final determination," Garner said.
"We have just completed our external review. AdvancED office will review and send the report back to you. It may be at least thirty days in a good month. The commission will then act on your status between now and June. They will meet in June. They'll have everything done in April or May and they may tell you ahead of time," she added.
"We want to thank everybody for all the hospitality and for all the support and professionalism that we have seen on this visit. We respect and acknowledge your efforts to improve the quality of education here at your school and our congratulations to you for your progress toward achieving your accreditation as a quality institution," Garner concluded.
DCHS Principal Cripps expressed his appreciation to the faculty and staff. " I'd like to thank our teachers for the time and hard work they put into this, to Ms. Bryant, and to everyone else who has been involved in the process. Again thanks to all of you for everything you have done," he said.
Along with Chairperson Garner, other members of the visiting committee to DCHS were Al Rogers, now retired from the Franklin County school system; Dr. Carol Hawkins of Christiana Middle School; and William “Butch” Vaughn of Providence Christian Academy. Garner is a teacher at Seigel High School in Murfreesboro.
Director Willoughby said he was pleased with the committee's report. "To have such a quality group of people who are practitioners as part of the SACS accreditation group to come in and do an evaluation reinforces what we all know that the sooner DeKalb County schools can get better technology, better funding, and a new (high) school, the better off our children will be because all we're talking about is what's best for students. That is what we are mainly concerned with. These people (committee) bragged on what was happening in our classes. They bragged on our students and teachers. I'm very proud to have them come in and reinforce some of these thing we already knew," he said.