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The honor improves Hillsborough's standing globally with colleges and potential donors.

The credits students earn in Hillsborough County public schools may now be recognized all over the country - and the world.

The school district has been accredited by the AdvancED Accreditation Commission, a national agency that assesses schools' educational standards and programs. The distinction lasts for five years and comes after a rigorous evaluation.

In April, a 40-member team from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools conducted more than 1,800 interviews with school board members, staff, students and community members.

Team leader Nikki Armato praised the district's leadership, emphasis on improvement and teacher training programs.

"We did not see any flaws or deficiencies," said Armato, chief learning officer for Georgia-based AdvancED, the parent organization of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. "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."

Since 1914, individual high schools in Hillsborough have routinely been accreditedby the organization. But now, the entire district has won the distinction.

"Credits that students earn in any school (in Hillsborough) are fully transferable without question anywhere in the world," said Dennis Holt, supervisor of secondary social studies, who led the district's effort to get accredited. "Those credits from Carrollwood Elementary now will transfer to a school in England or Buenos Aires, Argentina."

Accreditation helps colleges, employers and potential donors gauge the quality of school districts. Holt said it makes schools eligible for federal grants that can be used to expand educational opportunities, such as advanced placement programs.

"It was a pretty massive undertaking," Holt said. "People can look at our district all across the world and rest assured that we are meeting and maintaining very high standards."

In recent years, more and more schools and districts have begun applying for accreditation, said Jennifer Oliver, an AdvancED spokeswoman.

Oliver said more than 100 schools nationwide were accredited this spring and another 200 are undergoing evaluation.

"District Accreditation is a rigorous process that focuses the entire school system on the primary goal of creating lifelong learners," said Mark Elgart, president and CEO of AdvancED. "(Hillsborough County Public Schools) is to be commended for engaging in this process and demonstrating a commitment to continuous improvement."

AdvancED represents 27,000 public and private schools and districts across the United States and in 65 countries worldwide, according to its website.

Nandini Jayakrishna can be reached at (813) 226-3383 or