The state of North Dakota uses a nationally recognized accreditation model that focuses on continuous improvement, student performance, and stakeholder satisfaction for all schools. The AdvancED accreditation approach provides one common method for reporting in every school in the state and allows for uniform comparison among school districts. Districts are visited by an outside evaluation team every five years; our last visit was in March of 2015 and our next visit is scheduled for Nov. 11 – 13.
Through a process which includes interviews of internal and external stakeholders, observations, analysis of surveys and assessment results, and evaluation of standards, the review team will identify Powerful Practices (areas in which we excel), Improvement Opportunities (areas to consider adjustments), and Improvement Priorities (areas we are required to address).
Institutions seeking to gain or retain accreditation must meet AdvancED standards specific to their institution type, demonstrate acceptable levels of student achievement and continuous improvement, and provide evidence of stakeholder engagement and satisfaction. The process provides our district the opportunity to engage in structured, continuous improvement to review,
analyze, and reflect on progress we have made since our last visit. Additionally, the process facilitates ongoing professional learning, collaboration, and cooperation among our staff and key stakeholders to identify and articulate progress made in the areas most in need of improvement.
During our last accreditation visit in 2015, the following were areas were identified as improvement priorities:
1. Create and implement a formalized process that drives curriculum, instruction and assessments throughout the district.
Our response:We developed committees that oversee curriculum, professional development, and assessments. There is now alignment from kindergarten through grade twelve. Teachers, principals and district-level administration are involved in the committee work and decision-making process.
2. Design a K-12 grading system based on clearly defined standards, skills and competencies K-12.
Our response: We created proficiency scales and a continuum of learning from kindergarten through grade eight, which clearly defines what we want our students to know and be able to do. With this work complete, we were able to implement standards-based grading in elementary and middle schools. By assessing standards in a systematic way, we are ensuring every child has equal access to the guaranteed and viable curriculum regardless of the school they attend or the teacher in the classroom. We are currently working on proficiency scales and the continuum of learning in grades nine through 12.
In addition: The district is part of the state pilot to shift towards Personalized, Competency-Based Learning. The state is providing access to professional development to help us ensure there is PCBL in all schools.
3. Develop and implement formalized processes and monitoring procedures to guarantee instructional time for all students is protected and focused on supporting the mission and goals of the system.
Due to growth, our district struggled with equity at the kindergarten level. The kindergarten center had fewer instructional minutes each day due to the transferring of students from their home school to the center. We solved that problem when we moved our kindergartners back into neighborhood schools.
The district was also given accolades in 2015 for our Powerful Practices:
1. The district excels at identifying and coordinating learning support services to meet the unique learning needs of a rapidly growing, diverse student population.
2.Our mission and 2011 – 2016 Strategic Plan are the guiding framework for decision-making in a time of rapid change and provide direction for a continued focus on increasing student success.
3. The school board adheres to a governance model that ensures board members effectively provide strategic leadership and operational expectations for the monitoring of conditions and the stated outcomes for student learning and the implementation of the strategic plan.
4. We implemented a process that maximizes district resources for strategic long-range planning.
As the superintendent of the fastest growing, third-largest district in the state of North Dakota, I welcome the opportunity for feedback from an outside agency. We know there are areas in which we excel, but there are also opportunities for us to improve. This feedback will guide our work into the next strategic planning process in 2021. It will guide our programming decisions at all grade levels and in all schools and will challenge us to explore innovative strategies for engagement and authentic learning that will ensure our community will have a workforce that is prepared and choice ready. Through this process, we will pursue excellence and continue to be the district of choice.
If you are interested in taking part in the accreditation visit, please contact Kelly Schmit at 701-356-2001 or KSCHMIT@west-fargo.k12.nd.us