Hoover City Schools: AdvancED External Review Process
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AdvancED External Review Process

21-Feb-2014 (HCS) – AdvancED, a national accrediting organization, has favorably reviewed Hoover City Schools’ practices and processes to once again recommend that Hoover City Schools continues as an accredited school district for another five years.

AdvancED's visit, known as an External Review Process, took place the week of February 10.  The six-member team – comprised of educators from around the U.S. – was charged with determining the district’s effectiveness in meeting the requirements of accreditation.  In order to complete this process, the team reviewed a broad range of district documents, listened to presentations by district leadership, interviewed stakeholders at all levels of the institution, and observed instruction in classrooms - all during a week of wintry weather. 

“The weather necessitated numerous changes to the review team’s planned activities,” Superintendent Mr. Andy Craig said.  “Fortunately, our teachers and administrators were extremely cooperative and flexible in accommodating a revised team visitation schedule, parents who were unable to interview with the team in person participated in conference calls, and board members adjusted work schedules and braved the weather to meet with the external review team.  Despite the challenges, the team was thorough in completing all elements of the review and assured us that they felt very comfortable with the depth and scope of the process.” 

The lead evaluator, Dr. James Brown, retired deputy superintendent of schools (Gadsden School District, Florida), led a visiting team which included Ms. Belinda Roberts, executive director of federal programs, Mobile County Schools; Dr. Brindlea Griffin, director of child nutrition programs, Phenix City Schools; Dr. Mike Jeffers, retired deputy director of secondary schools, North Kansas City Schools, Missouri; and Ms. Tammy Winkler, assistant principal, Middle Elementary School, Clay County Schools, Florida.  Collectively, the team conducted 196 interviews and made 57 classroom observations.

In its exit report, the team provided feedback in the categories of Powerful Practices and Required Actions.  Powerful Practices highlight actions not typically observed or expected in schools which deserve special commendation.  The following Powerful Practices were noted for Hoover City Schools:

·         HCS provides technology equipment/responsive infrastructure supporting teaching, learning and operational needs of all students and staff at an extremely high level.

·         HCS provides multiple avenues for students to achieve success and places a strong emphasis on instructional rigor and equitable access to programs and services.

·         HCS has demonstrated a high level of stewardship in providing and maintaining long-term financial health and resource management to support its purpose and direction while facing a growing population in an unstable financial environment.

“I’m really glad that the review team acknowledged these particular areas as worthy of special commendation,” Dr. Ron Dodson, Assistant Superintendent of Instruction, said.  “We have worked very hard in recent years, in the midst of a national economic recession, to engage our students in rigorous and individually challenging learning experiences through the transformative integration of instructional technology.  Our teachers and school leaders are the best of the best, and I’m proud that their efforts have been recognized in this review process.”  

AdvancED believes that all institutions can improve, and every institution reviewed is given Required Actions upon the completion of the External Review. As a result, the External Review team was charged with identifying some actions that HCS should complete.  AdvancED refers to these as Required Actions. The following Required Actions were noted for Hoover City Schools:

·         Develop a component for the district’s professional development plan that ensures the acquisition of adequate data analysis skills to enable teachers at all levels to provide differentiated instructional strategies to meet the specific learning needs of all learners; and monitor the application of the skills and use the strategies especially at the secondary level.

·         Expand the focus of strategic plan development to make it more inclusive of stakeholder populations represented in the school district to ensure a greater depth of awareness that the plan undergirds the purpose and direction of the system.  The process needs to be more formalized and when developed, communicated so that it reaches a maximum number of stakeholders

Superintendent Craig was pleased that the external review team’s recommendations reflected current district improvement efforts already underway. 

“We began this school year with a new emphasis on the use of formative benchmark assessments for reading and mathematics at all grade levels, and teachers are now in the early stages of learning how to use that information to evaluate progress and support individual learner needs.  We have also recently begun working on  a new strategic planning process, so the actions noted by AdvancED are well aligned with areas where we know improvements are necessary for our school district," Craig said.

Hoover City Schools Instructional Coordinator of Federal Programs and Testing Dr. Debra Smith helped organize the accreditation process from the internal perspective, a process which began more than three years ago.  Her work with personnel and various stakeholder groups helped ensure that a complete internal review had occurred, giving guidance to instructional practices and helping to identify continuous improvement goals and strategies. 

"I am extremely pleased with the findings from the External Review visit. It is a rewarding feeling when the extensive Internal Review process aligns with the findings of the External Review Team. This demonstrates our willingness to honestly evaluate our test data, instructional practices and philosophies regarding teaching and learning in order to make a positive difference in the lives of our students," Dr. Smith said.

The External Review Team reflected favorably on Hoover City Schools’ professionalism and accommodations during the review process.

“Thank you for your hospitality and for attending to the team’s needs.  The excellent and expert planning and scheduling helped ensure a smooth review,” Dr. Brown said. “Despite the inclement weather in the area during the visit we were able to complete all of the required work. Thank you and your staff for being flexible and making adjustments to accommodate the team.”

Jason Gaston/HCS