Why do we focus so much on accreditation? Aren’t all school districts accredited?
The short answer is yes. All public and private K-12 school districts in the state of North Dakota are approved and accredited by the Department of Public Instruction. The difference that sets Fargo Public Schools apart from other districts in the region is its accreditation by the North Central Association (NCA), and AdvancED, the global education accreditation and school improvement community in which NCA is a member.
AdvancED accreditation is a voluntary quality assurance process under which an organization’s services and operations are evaluated by a third party, usually made up of individuals who represent other member groups of the association. Evidence of the District’s history with NCA accreditation goes back over 100 years, with a commemorative plaque hanging in Fargo South High School that marks that milestone. (Fargo Central High School was the original accredited school. In 2004, AdvancED began facilitating district-wide accreditation. FPS became one of the first 7 accredited school districts in 2005; it received accreditation for the third time last spring.)
AdvancED’s process for accreditation is multi-faceted. Its measurements for accreditation are based on 5 standards and 33 indicators (revised from 7 and 63, respectively). They measure all of the things that the District does, and to what level of quality. The five standards are:
- Purpose and Direction
- Governance and Leadership
- Teaching and Assessing for Learning
- Resources and Support Systems
- Using Results for Continuous Improvement
In 2011, the District received an “Operational” rating on six standards, and a “Highly Functional” on the seventh.
The District approaches the AdvancED process using a protocol. In addition to meeting the above standards, the protocol also requires a continuous improvement plan be in place for all of its buildings, and conduct internal and external reviews of individual buildings and the District. (External reviews are required a minimum of once every five years.) The District must also have an identified person responsible for coordinating accreditation efforts. (Career & Technical Education Director Sue Myxter is this individual within FPS.)
Each year, different school buildings have external review visits as a part of this protocol. This year, Bennett, Horace Mann-Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Longfellow Elementary Schools will host reviews.
Fargo Public Schools uses two committees of employees that help facilitate this protocol – the Council for District Improvement and the Accreditation Committee. While the roles and responsibilities of each are distinctly different, collaboration and communication between them is essential for our success. The Council for District Improvement is tasked with the responsibilities of data analysis, professional development and assessment for the District. The Accreditation Committee, on the other hand, coordinates and monitors the criteria and protocols required of and related to earning accreditation through AdvancED.
For more information on the accreditation process, protocol, committees, and school review schedules in the Fargo Public Schools, see the FPS Protocol.