Columbia County's school system just got graded.
It passed with flying colors.
Associate Superintendent Lauren Williams accurately describes system-wide accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools as "sort of like a Good Housekeeping seal of approval." But there's more to the recent passing score than that.
In the past, a SACS evaluation group visited every one of the county's schools, every five years. The process was necessary for certifying to outsiders that the schools were doing an adequate job of educating students.
But it was also exhausting and expensive for the individual schools. Each one was responsible for putting on a dog-and-pony show for the visiting SACS evaluators, and had to pay for hotel rooms and dinners to make the visitors comfortable.
SACS this year started a new program in which the review team looked at the system as a whole. Every school had a role in the process, but no individual school had to carry the whole load.
That's appropriate, because while the system is only as good as its weakest school, none of the schools can excel if the system as a whole isn't performing. Evaluating the entire system gives SACS a much better view.
The nine-member evaluation team liked what it saw. From school visits to staff interviews to conversations with community leaders, the SACS council found a well-run school system coping admirably with challenges of growth and funding.
As a result, Columbia County is only the fifth school system out of 180 systems in the entire state to receive system-wide accreditation. The council's final report, due soon to the county, recognizes some challenges that the county still must work on, but overall gives the schools high marks.
We knew that already - but it's nice when an outside agency tells the rest of the world, too.
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