Miami-Dade schools seeks district-wide accreditation

Miami-Dade County Public Schools is looking to knock off Broward County as the largest accredited school district in the country.

AdvancEd, an education agency that has reviewed the teaching practices, governance, leadership and data-use of thousands of schools and school systems, is currently looking at Miami-Dade to see if the district’s practices are up to its standard. The analysis is expected to continue into next summer.

AdvancEd president and CEO Mark Elgart visited the Miami-Dade School Board Wednesday and told board members the organization has been working with the district for months now. The agency, an umbrella for several regional accreditation divisions, was brought in by Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, who says getting AdvancEd’s seal of approval is the next step in improving Miami-Dade’s schools.

“It says something about us as an entity,” Carvalho said. “District-wide accreditation goes a long way in saying not only is there a periodic validation accreditation for individual schools, there’s a certification that district-wide continues to improve its model, meeting and exceeding the highest standards.”

Elgart said AdvancEd will look at leadership, scores on exams like FCAT, teachers’ tools and decision making, community feedback and student input. Board members and administrators will also be reviewed, as well as the district’s use of student data.

If the district earns accreditation, he said the school system will have to continue improving to maintain its status. Miami-Dade would join Broward County and Palm Beach County as accredited districts in South Florida.

Elgart also said the accreditation Miami-Dade is pursuing is a more rigorous version.

“On a national scale in a system like Miami-Dade, it gives you much more prominence as to where you are,” he said.

All the district’s schools are already individually accredited, Carvalho said. This process now shifts the burden to the district’s central office.

Elgart said volunteers will come to Miami-Dade early next May and over several days visit dozens of schools and look over the shoulders of thousands of students. A final determination would come within a month or two after the site visits.

Should the district become accredited, it wouldn’t have to be recertified until 2019.

“They’re challenging themselves to reach a higher standard,” Elgart said of the district.

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