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School system aims for district accreditation

All McDuffie County Schools are accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Accreditation ensures the schools are following research-based practices for educating that qualifies graduates for admission to higher institutions.

Living up to their motto, "where learning is valued and excellence is achieved," McDuffie County Schools are taking this accreditation one step further by seeking district accreditation.

"We are excited to participate in this new process because it will help us stay on our primary goal of improving student learning," said Dr. Barry O'Neill, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

District accreditation means the district will conduct a system-wide self-study that includes an analysis providing evidence that all schools in the system meet the requirements in beliefs, leadership, finances and resources, communications, facilities, curriculum, instruction, student services, assessment, measurement, effectiveness and improvement.

According to documents from SACS, district accreditation is not a stand-alone process, but examines how all the processes and functions of a system work in concert. Dr. O'Neill said McDuffie currently has seven committees involving almost 100 people who are charged to complete a narrative of how the local schools are meeting each of the SACS standards.

During the last week of April, a highly-trained group of people from outside the local system, called the Quality Assurance Review Team, will come to McDuffie to conduct interviews with school administrators and personnel, take tours of each school, and to give their commendations and recommendations.

"The review will be different than a panel saying 'show me your documents,' they will be looking for common vocabulary showing that all the schools have a common goal," Dr. O'Neill said.

Dr. O'Neill said district accreditation differs from standard accreditation because "the results will not say Thomson Middle School needs to do this to improve, rather it will say what the district as a whole needs to do."

The QAR team will continue to visit on a five-year cycle.

Web posted on Thursday, February 23, 2006

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