Shelby County schools earn district accreditation and praise

SHELBY COUNTY, AL (WBRC) - The Shelby County School District has a reason to be proud. The district earned District Accreditation and was named a "model school district" by the AdvancED Quality Assurance Review Team.

The review team noted commendations for leadership, professional development, website maintenance and collaboration for continuous improvement.

Also noted was the County's continued efforts despite challenges like proration and increased growth.

Here is the press release issued by Shelby County Schools:

The Shelby County School District not only earned the coveted prize of District Accreditation, but also the praise and recognition of being a "model school district" by the AdvancED Quality Assurance Review Team.

"When I think of a model for continuous improvement, I will now think of Shelby County," Dr. Veronica Harts, Vice President for Professional Learning for AdvancED, told the Board of Education and district leaders who had gathered to hear the Oral Exit Report from the QAR team.

The QAR team recognized the Shelby County school district for several strengths including: superintendent leadership; organizational structure; strategic planning/plan; continuous improvement planning/plan; having an award winning website; professional learning/development; professional learning communities; pride among all stakeholders; having highly motivated, dedicated and passionate administrators, teachers, and support staff; and having human, financial, and physical resources provided by stakeholders.

In addition to the strengths, the QAR team gave special commendations to the district for:

  • Exemplary system level leadership that models a collaborative work culture, a commitment to student achievement, and dedication to continuous improvement.
  • Comprehensive, targeted professional development opportunities at all levels to promote continuous improvements.
  • Developing and maintaining an exemplary district website which serves as an excellent information tool for all stakeholders and community.
  • Leadership at all levels that is focused and committed to refining and improving the climate and learning of all students.
  • Effective collaboration at all levels to sustain continuous improvement.

AdvancED, the world's largest educational community, is dedicated to advancing excellence in education through accreditation, professional learning, innovation, and information and educational technologies.  District accreditation is a national protocol for school districts committed to systemic, systematic, and sustainable improvement.  Going through the district accreditation process helps to stimulate and improve effectiveness and efficiency throughout the organization.

To earn district accreditation a school district is expected to meet the seven standards for quality systems, identify and guide the implementation of a systemic continuous improvement process, monitor all schools through a quality assurance process, prepare and host a Quality Assurance Review (QAR) every five years, and respond to any recommendations made by the QAR team.  Schools within the district are expected to meet the accreditation standards, implement the district's continuous improvement process, and participate in the district's quality assurance process.

The QAR team was comprised of current and retired educators from all over the Southeast.  They spent three days in Shelby County where they reviewed the school district's data and relevant documents, heard presentations about the district and its programs, and visited schools to observe teaching practices and classroom environments.  The QAR team also interviewed 491 stakeholders, including board members, administrators, teachers, support staff, students, parents, and business/community leaders.

"You told us that you were doing a good job and we have been able to validate that what you said was going on, really was going on," said Dr. Harts.  "One of your middle school students told me 'at our school, our teachers don't do what it easy and best for them. They do what's best for us.'  I heard that from a middle schooler and I started to cry."

As part of the overall review, the QAR team also pointed out a few challenges facing the district.  Those included the decrease in state funding due to proration, growth caused by a consistent increase of students and families, building new facilities and keeping existing ones updated, attracting and recruiting a diverse workforce, and increasing parent participation from minority parents.

The QAR team also recommended the district design and implement an aggressive plan for the recruitment and retention of highly qualified minorities for teachers, local school administrators, and district leadership positions. A written report of the findings will be submitted to the district within 30 business days.  The district will be expected to monitor school and system accreditation standards and improvement efforts on an ongoing basis.

Superintendent Randy Fuller thanked the QAR team for validating through their findings that the Shelby County school district was a model for excellence.

"We wanted someone to come in and tell us that we were doing something right," Fuller said. "I want to thank all of our district leaders for their buy in - for recognizing that our focus truly is student centered.  We knew that you would find that we are special