By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published May 23, 2013
SMYRNA—A visiting team of 10 Catholic school educators has unanimously recommended the Archdiocese of Atlanta Catholic schools for district-wide accreditation by AdvancED.
It was the culmination of a great deal of self-scrutiny by the Catholic school system. The Office of Catholic Schools, along with each individual school, had already completed an extensive self-study that analyzed their students’ performance and assessed results from over 10,000 surveys completed by parents, students and employees.
Also, as part of the process, the team of visiting Catholic educators from across the country interviewed many people who have involvement in the school system.
During April 21-24, the visiting team “interviewed in excess of 305 stakeholders to affirm our self-study, to listen to our constituents, to make a recommendation of accreditation status to AdvancED, and to also provide powerful practices they found as well as required actions from the schools’ office,” Dr. Diane Starkovich, superintendent of Catholic schools, wrote in a newsletter to the schools.
In addition to unanimously recommending district-wide accreditation, the team spoke about what they’d seen and heard.
“During the final report on Wednesday afternoon (April 24), many wonderful comments were shared with those in attendance,” Starkovich said.
She said the archdiocesan system was recognized for two practices: a unified purpose and direction around two hallmarks of solid faith formation and academic excellence; and the clearly evident principle of subsidiarity in all aspects of the operation within the Catholic school system of the archdiocese.
One recommendation made by the team was to establish policies and procedures so that future data can be analyzed and used to drive curriculum and instruction and a second recommendation was to support schools in the utilization of up-to-date technology, infrastructure, purchasing and use for teaching and learning.
The Office of Catholic Schools will receive a written report from the visiting team in the next few weeks. AdvancED will vote on the district-wide accreditation this June.
“While we are waiting for the team’s written report, we have already begun the process to finalize our next steps, which will include quality assurance visits to each of our schools,” Starkovich wrote. “We should be so very proud of these excellent Catholic schools found throughout the Archdiocese of Atlanta.”
The self-study began in March 2012 with surveys of all parents, employees and students. Overall, more than 10,500 surveys were completed, representing 68 percent of possible respondents, according to Tom Campbell, assistant superintendent of Catholic schools.
On both the school and archdiocesan levels, survey results were analyzed, as was student performance, which was measured on the elementary school level by the Iowa and ACRE assesments and on the high school level by AP, SAT, ACT and PSAT scores along with other measures.
“This data was helpful in completing school and archdiocesan self-assessments on the five AdvancED standards: purpose and direction, governance and leadership, teaching and assessing for learning, resources and support systems, and using results for continuous improvement,” Campbell wrote in an email.
The self-assessment was completed by committees consisting of a total of 50 school administrators, faculty and staff members. From the collected data and completed self-assessment, four goals were identified for continuous improvement in the areas of “Catholic identity,” “student support services,” “data driven instruction” and “instructional technology.”
“Work has already begun toward achieving our identified continuous improvement goals and monitoring the quality of our schools in anticipation of our next self-study in five years,” wrote Campbell.
Starkovich noted that the primary reason for switching to AdvancED was that “district-wide accreditation allows us to focus not only on the secular subjects taught in our schools but it also allows us to place primary emphasis on our Catholic identity, the religion/theology courses taught in our schools, and the passing on of our faith to the next generation.”
The National Catholic Educational Association has issued standards and benchmarks for effective elementary and secondary Catholic schools, Starkovich said.
She added, “These benchmarks are being aligned with the district-wide accreditation.” AdvancED is the parent company of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. All schools in the archdiocese currently are SACS-accredited.