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Yuma Union High District may get new accreditation
• The district has taken bold steps to increase student achievement and academic rigor for all students in an effort to achieve transformational change.
• The shared purpose of the district promotes commitment, transparency, and collaboration and supports achievement for all students.
• Leadership at all levels of the system supports a continuous improvement process focused on improving student learning, exemplifying a learning organization.
• The Governing Board, along with leadership at all levels, has facilitated meaningful reform by narrowing the number of district goals and by implementing improvements through Ready Now Yuma.
• Caring and forward-thinking staff promote an environment conducive to risk-taking and problem solving while holding themselves to high standards.
• The systemic adoption and implementation of the Cambridge curriculum is in alignment with the school system's belief that all students are capable of meeting high academic standards and expectations.
• The district and schools embrace the diversity of students and their community and celebrate their uniqueness by providing equal access to challenging learning experiences.
• The district provides time, money, and support for a strategic direction focused on high achievement, college and career readiness, and equal access for all students.
• The provision of security personnel and electronic monitoring at the building level provides a safe environment for all stakeholders.
• The exploration of alternative energy sources demonstrates responsible stewardship of limited funds.
• Leaders and staff at all levels of the district exemplify positive attitudes and deep commitment to the potential of the district to deliver college and career-ready graduates despite unique obstacles.
An evaluation team will recommend Yuma Union High School District be accredited through AdvancEd.
A team of evaluators, who have spent many years in education and evaluation around the world, announced the news at the end of their report at a special board meeting Wednesday, summarizing their findings from their district visit. YUHSD is seeking a districtwide accreditation, the highest level a district can apply for.
District staff has been working for the past year to answer questions, conduct surveys and audit processes, especially around teaching and learning, to prepare for the three-day visitation of the evaluators. AdvancED is an education network that serves more than 30,000 public and private schools throughout the United States and 70 countries worldwide which includes all Department of Defense schools and a total of about 15 million students.
On a 1 to 4 scale, with a 4 being perfect, YUHSD was graded on AdvancEd's five standards calculated through information they collected, reviewed and evaluated. Lead evaluator Judy Wesley said that all accredited institutions fall somewhere on this scale, most toward the 2 to 3 point range.
In purpose and direction YUHSD received a 2.5, for governance and leadership a 2.83, in resources and support systems a 2.75, in teaching and assessing for learning a 2.83, and in using results for continuous improvement a 2.2.
Also, in regards to learning environment ratings; the district received a 2.1 for an equitable learning environment, a 2.3 for a high expectations environment, a 2.5 for a supportive learning environment, a 2.3 for an active learning environment, a 2.3 for a progress monitoring and feedback environment, a 2.7 for a well-managed learning environment, and a 1.4 for a digital learning environment.
Wesley shared that the district should move forward and act on the following:
• Increase stakeholder communication and programs to engage families in meaningful ways to support the education of their children.
• Develop and implement school-based technology plans aligned to the district's technology plan addressing infrastructure, support of teaching, learning, and operational needs.
• Design and establish a comprehensive and clearly defined student assessment system.
Wesley, who has been working with school accreditations for 35 years, said that something that stood out to her about YUHSD was the staff.
“I'm really impressed with the collaboration of the staff, it's over and beyond what I'm accustomed to,” she said, “Both professionally and socially, they are friends who work together for the betterment of the school district, they're so supportive of one another.”
In regards to the Cambridge curriculum, she said it's unusual for them to see a district implement it, or something like it, to enable all students to become college and career ready.
She added, “One of the external review team members said if he had a child he would love for them to attend one of these schools. That says a lot,” she said.
Superintendent Toni Badone said that knowing that they scored as well as or better than many districts AdvancEd works is an honor.
“We're pleased,” said Badone. “We did a self assessment previously and we ourselves graded ourselves very close to what they did because we know we have room to grow but at the same time we're really proud of the achievement of systemwide accreditation... There's only a couple of districts in Arizona that have achieved that. To have our entire district be recommended for that is an awesome, awesome feat.”
She added that in June the AdvancEd commission will assess all districts that have been recommended for accreditation this semester, and in the meantime YUHSD will continue to work on the three required actions given out by the review team.
“It's been a long process, but we're really proud of the district... We want our transcripts and our graduation diplomas to mean something as students take them out of state and around the world,” Badone concluded.
While visiting YUHSD, the AdvancEd site review team observed 23 district classes and talked with a total of 213 individuals including: four board members; 33 district level staff, certified and classified; 55 school level leadership; 47 teachers and support staff; 36 students; as well as 38 parents, business and community representatives.
Sarah Womer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6858. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSSarahWomer or on Twitter at @YSSarahWomer.