Friday, December 15, 2017
Education

Process would put Pinellas schools under a 'microscope'

A top-heavy administration. A culture of internal competition and confusion. Schools not getting the support they need.

These were among the findings of a sweeping study done a little more than a year ago on Pinellas County schools.

Now superintendent Mike Grego has a proposal that could help the district get its act together: districtwide accreditation.

Accreditation would put the district's administration under a "microscope," Grego said.

The process, which can take nearly two years, provides a national model to measure Pinellas against and ensures that district departments and schools are working toward the same goals.

"I think it's a great process for district reflection," Grego said.

Grego plans to pitch the idea to the School Board during its workshop Tuesday.

The purpose of accreditation is to increase student achievement by improving school systems, said Pat Wentz, director of the Florida office for AdvancED, the umbrella group for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The SACS accredits thousands of educational institutions.

The most tangible benefit is "quality control," Wentz said.

With accreditation, every school would have a plan to improve. Students could transfer between schools with the assurance that teachers in the new school would be teaching the same things at the same time, she said.

The administration also would have to meet certain standards.

And the district would have to maintain its accreditation with a team visit and review from AdvancED every five years. The process would spotlight its strengths and weaknesses.

Four of the largest accredited districts in the country are in Florida, including Hillsborough, Duval, Broward and Palm Beach counties, she said.

Of the 67 school districts in the state, 43 are accredited, she said.

Pinellas County's high schools already are accredited.

If the district earns accreditation then all schools would have that distinction.

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