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Team recommends accreditation for Hillsborough school district

TAMPA — A visiting team is recommending that the Hillsborough County School District receive full accreditation, officials said Wednesday.

"We'd like to applaud you," said team leader Nikki Armato. "We congratulate you for what you have achieved."

The recommendation by representatives from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools must be approved by that organization's board, and will be taken up during the last week of June, Armato said.

The team told the district it should take steps to nurture fledgling initiatives, such as its $100 million teacher effectiveness grant with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It should develop stronger systems for evaluating instructional reforms, and make sure that all schools get the support they need from central offices.

"Not just the ones that are targeted and strongly in need of assistance," Armato said.

But she praised the district's leadership, improvement-oriented culture, and training systems for teachers.

"We did not see any flaws or deficiencies," said Armato, chief learning officer for Georgia-based AdvancED, the accreditation agency's parent organization. "I'm sure there are things that aren't working, but what's good is they have a plan for things that aren't working."

School district officials cheered the news, and described the recommendations as useful.

"We know we have a lot to be proud of, and we always know we have areas to improve," said School Board chairwoman Susan Valdes.

"We're going to have to network with each other," said member Jack Lamb, describing the challenge of staying connected to each school in the sprawling district. "Spread the wealth."

Since Monday, the 40-person team has been analyzing Hillsborough in depth. Members visited 40 schools, interviewed teachers and administrators, and met with 326 parents and 407 students.

Accreditation helps colleges, employers and potential donors gauge the quality of school districts.

Individual Hillsborough high schools have been earning the group's stamp of approval since 1914, officials said. But this would be the first time the entire district has earned that distinction.

Tom Marshall can be reached at tmarshall@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3400.

Team recommends accreditation for Hillsborough school district 04/28/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 28, 2010 11:25pm]
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