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Tue, Aug. 03

Grand Canyon School keeps accreditation after one year review

Grand Canyon School Superintendent Shonny Bria said the high school will keep its accreditation after a one year review. Loretta Yerian/WGCN

Grand Canyon School Superintendent Shonny Bria said the high school will keep its accreditation after a one year review. Loretta Yerian/WGCN

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. - After being under review for the last year, Grand Canyon School (GCS) will be allowed to keep its accreditation.

In 2015, the school underwent an accreditation evaluation from AdvancEd, a national accreditation organization, which conducted an on-site external review of the school in 2015.

After the evaluation, AdvancED put GCS under a one year review and gave the school seven areas for improvement in order to re-establish good standing with the accreditation board. On May 10, AdvancEd re-evaluted the school and took GCS out of review, allowing them to keep its accreditation. Out of the seven points GCS needed to improve, four areas were completely removed. The final three areas are considered areas for continual improvement.

These areas include - having continuous learning models, continued instructional models of teaching and learning and curriculum.

"All of these areas moved up on the scale from a one to a two," Bria said. "They have not given us a lot of detail, because they are still working on the report."

Bria said for the continuous learning models kids track their own performance and self-assess their work.

"This is a continuous model that includes the kids and the adults," she said. "They want to make sure this continues and is not just a snapshot that goes away next year."

The review approved accreditation for the high school and recommended accreditation for K-8.

"Which I tend to agree with," Bria said. "I think it was just a little too much for this campus to bite off in such a short period of time."

The accreditation review was conducted by AdvancED May 10 and results were presented to Tom Rowland, principal at GCS, Bria and GCS administrator Matt Yost.

Bria said this year's review was not as formal as last years.

"They came back to see how much we had grown," she said.

According to Bria, this evaluation was not to finish last year's evaluation but was to ensure GCS was following through on recommendations made for the school by AdvancED.

"They were measuring our growth," Bria said. "The will come back next year and look at the three items to make sure that that continues to grow. 'It takes three to five years to change a culture'....that is from the public interest center in Harvard and how you change culture. We are in our second year and they (AdvancED) thought felt we had done pretty good."

Four areas GCS did well in were data analysis, mentoring, implementing professional learning communities and the elite section.

In data analysis teachers use data to measure growth of the students through AzMerit testing, Galileo testing, re-teach classes and the Beyond Textbook curriculum.

Mentoring helps staff by having a seasoned GCS teacher and new teachers together navigate through the school year and its new evaluation systems.Implementing professional learning communitys is a way of helping teachers work together to develop lesson plans and strategies on a daily basis.

For the elite section, GCS is required by the Arizona Department of Education to have a strategic plan which lays out what the school's anticipated end of year results will be based on the school's goals and objectives.

AdvancED normally conducts accreditation reviews once every five years, unless its external review team finds the school is not up to the highest standards. During the 2013-2014 school year, more than 100 schools went through accreditation reviews. According to Connie Harris, Arizona director for AdvancEd, every school has a minimum of at least one improvement priority.

"Some of the schools may fall into the lower quartile," she said in an interview in 2015 after GCS was placed under review. "They may fall into an area where they are under improvement. That's the only rating we have. You are either accredited or you are credited - under review."

Bria said GCS administration is extremely pleased with the results of the review and could look at accrediting the entire school as soon as next year.

"I am extremely proud of the teachers and the incredible growth they've made in one year in this district," she said. "(AdvancED) kept saying that they could see the incredible growth of everyone here in this district. They could see the culture and it was like night and now its day."

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