by Mary Wilson
The Hickman Mills Board of Education in April 2016, approved the pursuit of accreditation through AdvancED. Since then, the district has been preparing evidence of progress for the external review team. On April 20, AdvancED’s review team concluded the process, which began three days prior, with a presentation to the Hickman Mills Board of Education.
AdvancED Accreditation Commission recommended that Hickman Mills C-1 School District be accredited with distinction by their review team made up of nine educators from across the United States. A comprehensive review was conducted of all district processes in the areas of teaching and learning, leadership capacity, and the utilization of resources showed that Hickman Mills is performing within AdvancED’s acceptable ranges as compared to expected criteria as well as other institutions in their network. The external review team also reviewed district artifacts, conducted classroom observations, and interviewed approximately 215 district stakeholders to support their recommendation of accreditation to the AdvancED Accreditation Commission.
“I am extremely pleased to announce to our school district community that we have been recommended for international accreditation through AdvancED,” said Superintendent Dr. Dennis Carpenter. “We know there is work yet to be done in the area of student achievement, but it’s refreshing to have the district’s processes, systems and overall programming validated. This ensures we are on track in terms of providing a holistic education of the district’s children validated. In addition to highlighting five powerful practices in the district, this external review team also noted three improvement priorities that should guide this district’s work in the short-term future. I am humbled by positive sentiments of the external review team. This makes me extremely proud of the work of the faculty, staff and students of our district. We have come a long way.”
Currently there are six districts in Missouri accredited through AdvancED, and Hickman Mills will be the only urban school district in the state to receive the distinction. Parents and interested community members can learn more about the System Accreditation Process by visiting www.advanc-ed.org.
The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) still designates Hickman Mills C-1 as provisionally accredited, and stated that the independent review will not impact the district’s accreditation with the State of Missouri.
“This accreditation service is unrelated to the state’s system of accreditation,” said Sarah Potter, communications coordinator for DESE. “Therefore, it would have no bearing on the department’s accountability and accreditation system. Local districts have the option to consider employing outside accrediting organizations in addition to the state’s process.”
The total price tag for the independent accreditation review from AdvancED remains unclear, as the district has not yet received invoices for the services provided in the initial review process. According to Ruth Terrell, Director of Public Information and Partnerships, Hickman Mills, as part of AdvancED’s member network, will pay $11,550 annually. In five years, AdvancED will return to the district to perform another review, which will cost an estimated $2000 on top of the membership fee.
Deputy Superintendent Dr. Carl Skinner, who coordinated this effort with AdvancED, said, “Although the process was comprehensive and exhausting, it was worth it. Hopefully this honor will encourage our stakeholders and demonstrate our district-wide commitment to excellence, as well as our desire to continuously improve and be the best we can be for our students.”
While AdvancED cannot comment on the nature of the identified improvement priorities and powerful practices, as those were given directly to the district, the AdvancED Engagement Review process, according to Mariama Jenkins, AdvancED Director of Public Relations, enables institutions to self-reflect on their progress, and provides them with specific recommendations or improvement priorities in various environments, from classroom instruction, culture, and student engagement, that are designed to improve overall school quality.
“The State of Missouri has a test and performance based accreditation process which differs from AdvancED’s more holistic approach to improving school quality,” said Jenkins. “School improvement is a journey, not a destination. Engaging in the continuous improvement journey with AdvancED has given Hickman Mills a way to analyze their work, make necessary adjustments for student improvement and determine how what they are doing is aligned in meeting the state standards.”