A global organization that evaluates academic quality and effectiveness has given Rutherford County Schools high marks and recommended the district for reaccreditation.
The organization, AdvancED, is a global leader in providing continuous improvement and accreditation services to more than 32,000 institutions servicing 20 million students worldwide.
A team representing AdvancED spent the past four days evaluating the school district piece-by-piece. The evaluation included interviewing 262 stakeholders -- such as the Director of Schools, School Board members, administrators, instructional staff, students, parents and community members. The team interviewed principals from all schools and broke into teams to visit multiple classrooms at eight schools.
The team was tasked with identifying strengths of the district, suggesting areas to improve and with making a recommendation for reaccreditation, said Dr. Edlow Barker, the evaluation team chairman.
"It was not only a personal pleasure but also a professional pleasure to be here," Barker said during a special-called School Board meeting held on March 25 to discuss the results.
The team's report summary gave the district an overall score of 336.59 out of a possible 400 points. The national average overall score is 282.79 points, Barker said.
"Congratulations," Barker said. "These are good numbers and are well above the average across the nation."
Director of Schools Don Odom commented that a team member had said the district's overall score was the highest she had seen in Tennessee. For example, another midstate school district also was evaluated this week, and its overall score was 271.71.
In addition to the overall score, Rutherford County Schools received 332.54 points in the area of "Teaching and Learning Impact" (the national average is 274.12); 343.06 points in the area of "Leadership Capacity" (national average is 296.08); and 337.50 points in the area of "Resource Utilization" (national average is 286.08). All scores are based on a 400-point scale.
The district was praised for its safety efforts and the school resource officer program; autonomy of principals to make decisions; mentoring and coaching of teachers (especially new teachers); the use of data to make academic decisions for students; and long-range planning.
In addition, the evaluation team noted two "powerful practices" of the district:
- "Exemplary leadership by the Rutherford County Board of Education and the Director of Schools sets the tone for Rutherford County Schools to operate with a focus on continuous improvement and student success."
- "Teachers and leaders at the district and school levels are actively engaged in a comprehensive collaborative learning process that leads to continuous improvement in instruction and student learning."
The team also made suggestions for areas that could be improved.
Opportunities for improvement include:
- "Formalize a structure whereby each students across the district is guaranteed a long-term interaction with at least one adult advocate who supports the student's educational experience."
- "Establish procedures to ensure greater equity of educational programs and other learning experiences for all students across the district."
The team identified two improvement priorities. Improvement priorities must have a response within two years, Barker said.
Those areas include:
- "Incorporate procedures to engage all stakeholder groups in meaningful ways in the purpose and direction of the district."
- "Improve the technology infrastructure to equitably support the teaching, learning, and operations needs throughout the district."
Rutherford County School Board Chairman Wayne Blair thanked the evaluation team for completing such a thorough and comprehensive assessment of the school district.
"We're always appreciative to have other professionals come in and dissect the system," Blair said. "We take the compliments graciously but we take the suggested improvements seriously. We appreciate what you are doing for us because we are always striving to improve opportunities for our children."
A full report from AdvancEd will be issued to the district in approximately 30 days, Barker said.