Congratulations are certainly in order for the Pell City School System’s staff, students and parents. They just got a good report from the lead evaluator of the AdvancED accrediting agency. The lead evaluator said her team saw a lot of good in the system, which earned above average ratings. The evaluator said Pell City’s rating for its digital learning environment is the highest she has seen in the 37 system reviews she has done.

A statement from AdvancED defines accreditation as a voluntary method of quality assurance developed more than 100 years ago by American universities and secondary schools, and designed primarily to distinguish schools adhering to a set of educational standards. The accreditation process is also known in terms of its ability to effectively drive student performance and continuous improvement in education. But such definitions, though accurate, are incomplete.

Based on the accrediting agencies standards, the first step in the process is a self-study conducting by staff members of the schools system. It’s an in-depth self-evaluation that measures the system’s performance in a wide array of areas against the standards set forth by the agency. It gets staff members involved in thinking about how their classrooms, schools and system operate and to identify areas that need correction or improvement.

That is followed by an on-site evaluation by the accrediting agency’s team. That was recently completed in Pell City.

With standards met and the agency satisfied, accreditation is achieved, and the agency is responsible for monitoring each accredited institution or program.

AdvancED, is a combined company that includes the groups formerly known as the Southern Association for Colleges and Schools (SACS), North Central Association and the National Study of School Evaluation. AdvancED serves more than 30,000 public and private schools across the United States and in dozens of countries, and boasts of being the global leader in advancing education excellence through school improvement.

The accreditation process brings about a networking environment for local systems with a broader network committed to standards of excellence. The interaction brings about shared thinking on practices, technology and trends in education. Students and parents who move to other districts may also find it easier to transfer credits from one school to another, and can be helpful when students seek to further their education beyond high school.

AdvancED finds that some systems go through the motions of the accreditation process as a necessary evil, it is the process of accreditation that yields the greatest continuing return for institutions. It helps staff members see the big picture of the work they’re involved in, and can help bring renewed energy and innovation to help everyone in the system become the best they can be.

This accreditation will be the first for the system under Michael Barber’s leadership as superintendent. He was pleased to hear reports of being above average, but added that means the system is “above average with room to grow.”

The report indicates pride in the system and a commendable effort to provide a quality education for the students.