(Flemingsburg, Ky. – May 25, 2017) – During the week of March 12, 2017, the Fleming County School District hosted a team of external reviewers from the Kentucky Department of Education and AdvancEd who completed a diagnostic review, a management audit and an external review for systems accreditation. By completing three reviews simultaneously, the district was able to better connect the many processes within the system. The outcome of the three reviews highlights the work that the district has done to become a District of Distinction.
Fleming County Schools has been working on continuous school improvement, accreditation, and school/district turnaround since the fall of 2014. Using data and information from previous diagnostic reviews, many facets of our schools have significantly improved. We have focused on becoming a system of schools, with each school playing an extremely important role in preparing students for success at the next level. The results of the diagnostic review were extremely positive for both the high school and the district.
There were three powerful practices at the system level identified: the district’s culture and vision for excellence; the board’s focus on teaching and learning; and the district’s focus on strategic funding. ?Three improvement priorities were identified that the district is already focusing on as a result of the strategic framework: program evaluation; collaborative leadership; and personalized learning. ? Three improvement priorities were identified for the high school: monitoring and using to guide instruction; planning for student engagement through research-based instructional strategies; and personalized learning. The high school principal was deemed to have capacity to lead continuous improvement at Fleming County High School. The district was found to have the capacity to lead continuous improvement across the school system.
While a management audit for many districts is seen through a negative lens, Fleming County Schools viewed it as a positive and an opportunity to identify areas of strength and areas in need of improvement. As a result of the management audit, we have been able to develop tools, strategies, and processes to help sustain growth as a district and continued laser focus on student achievement. Additionally, the management audit has helped the district to focus on leadership growth and recognizing the gaps that disrupt the teaching and learning process. Subsequently, Fleming County Schools has been recommended to the Kentucky State Board of Education for exiting state assistance.
As a result of the external review, the district was recommended for accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement (SACS CASI). SACS CASI, an accrediting division for AdvancED, assists schools and school systems through the accreditation process and helps those institutions demonstrate a continuous commitment to providing quality education programs that are aimed at improving student performance. To earn accreditation, schools must meet AdvancED’s high standards, be evaluated by a team of professionals from outside the school, and implement a continuous process of school improvement. As a team, we utilized the management audit, the diagnostic review, and the accreditation process as a means to continually improve the district’s many processes. Throughout each of the processes, we were able to narrow our focus on five key processes: (1) engagement of all students to ensure success, (2) development of a common curriculum with common assessments, (3) analysis of data and student work through professional learning communities and collaboration, (4) empowerment of all stakeholders through collaborative leadership structures, and (5) connecting all of the district’s systems.
Though we made huge gains in addressing each of these areas, we realize that we still have much work left to do. High-performing school systems constantly seek to raise the bar. The board of education has made it perfectly clear that they expect students to have access to the best learning program in Kentucky that will lead to all students being college, career, and life ready. It is through this expectation that the board developed a five-year strategic framework that is closely aligned to key components found within the management audit, the diagnostic review and the Standards for Quality. Truly a game-changer, the strategic framework has propelled the district on a journey toward continuous school improvement, with a laser focus on student success.
Dr. Mark Elgart, President/CEO of AdvancED, the parent organization of SACS CASI, commended the school for its achievement. “Attaining accreditation is an exceptional accomplishment. The staff and school community in the Fleming County School District deserve our highest praise for their pursuit of quality and excellence.”
As we continue to say, we have phenomenal students and time and time again, this was validated throughout the review process. Our students are achieving at the highest level in years. But more importantly, many are already recognized as leaders throughout the Commonwealth from our recognized arts program to our welding champions, from our AP scholars to our student athletes and from our award-winning STLP program to our nationally recognized FCCLA. This is what education is all about – engaging students in relevant experiences that will prepare them to be tomorrow’s teachers, astronauts, scientists and community leaders. This is why we decided to go through the accreditation process – to maximize the teaching and learning process and provide ALL students an opportunity to be the best.
Our success as a district is a result of the many stakeholders that contribute and volunteer their time in our schools each and every day. This was recognized throughout the review process as a clear indication of the community’s dedication and support of its schools. As a district and community, we must always recognize that we only succeed when students succeed. As has been indicated numerous times over the past three years, high performing school systems or “Districts of Distinction” have strong partnerships with the local community that propel student achievement to the highest levels possible. The community’s continued support will be critical to the success of the district and our students.
Ultimately, it’s all about student success through teamwork. As a faculty and staff, it is remarkable and commendable the level of work, dedication, and commitment that each member of the team has exhibited throughout this three-year process. Each day, we saw growth in student performance and the staff’s professional practice and capacity to transform the complex teaching and learning process.
The vision of Fleming County Schools to become a District of Distinction aligns perfectly to the profile that AdvancEd and the Kentucky Department of Education expects of all school systems. At the end of the day, in simple terms, we want to be the best school district for students. As a result of combining all three reviews into a continuous internal and external process, the district has prepared itself to focus on student success for the long term. The possibilities are limitless when we focus on student success.
Our journey continues…