published Saturday, January 26th, 2013

Accreditation team to visit Dade County Schools

Some aspects of Dade County Schools will need improvement.

That's a foregone conclusion -- even before the Feb. 3-6 visit from a school accreditation team from AdvancED, which will inspect the Trenton, Ga.-based school district's two elementary schools, middle school and high school.

"Every school system ... gets opportunities for improvement," said Jennifer H. Oliver, spokeswoman for the school accreditation group.

Parents sometimes think the "opportunities for improvement" designation is a bad thing, she said.

"It's really not. It's a key concept of accreditation," Oliver said.

AdvancED is a nonprofit group with headquarters in Alpharetta, Ga., and Tempe, Ariz., that does accreditations at 23,000 prekindergarten through 12th-grade schools around the world.

It gobbled up the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement that formerly did accreditations in 11 Southern states, including Georgia, as well as two organizations in the Midwest and Northwest that accredited schools in 26 states.

Dade Schools Superintendent Shawn Tobin said all 180 school districts in Georgia must undergo accreditation every five years.

He has prepared a 148-point computer slide show for the AdvancED accreditation team.

"My hunch is we are going to be a shining star," Tobin said.

The school district has had to absorb $14 million in state funding cuts over the past decade, he said.

But it's done innovative things, such as creating three advisory boards of elementary, middle school and high school students who share their thoughts with Tobin.

"My [school] board's pretty darn good," Tobin said.

After its visit, the accreditation team will issue a report detailing its findings.

Typically, a school district will post the report on its website, Oliver said.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.

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