It was all good news Wednesday for the Forsyth County school system.
After three days of tours, interviews and research, the system’s accreditation was renewed.
“This district is truly exceptional,” said Dick Spohr, chairman of the accreditation team from AdvancED. “Your successes have been so impressive, you realize your future growth doesn’t start anyplace except at the top.
“For you to move forward, you’re under a different set of rules because of where you’re beginning.”
AdvancED, the world’s largest educational organization, sent eight visitors — four from Georgia and four, including Spohr, from out of state — to determine whether the system should keep its accreditation.
The team interviewed 595 people during their time in Forsyth. Among them were 208 teachers, 108 students, 89 parents and 71 administrators.
Spohr, a retired educator from Illinois, said the system outperformed all others he has seen during his years of service.
Forsyth County Board of Education member Nancy Roche recalled how the system first applied for accreditation five years ago.
“We were a little more nervous about what to do and how to do it,” she said. “This time we had the road map. It’s just so fun to hear positive things.
“As board members, most of the time your e-mail is about something negative, something gone wrong … so for somebody to really validate from the outside what a great job you’re doing, it’s just emotional.”
In addition to the interviews, the team visited eight schools in the system, peeking into classrooms and talking with students as they worked. The team measured what they saw against standards.
Before the system received its first accreditation in 2007, each school in the county had to be individually accredited.
By accrediting the entire district, just a few schools need to be reviewed. The status gives a level of distinction to the system, but also reaps benefits for the students.
Usually, they must attend an accredited school to be able to transfer credits and get greater access to loans, scholarships, colleges and military programs.
Forsyth County School Superintendent Buster Evans said he was “thrilled and ecstatic” the system’s efforts were recognized.
“It’s really encouraging for us,” he said. “This inspires us and motivates us to ensure that we continue to be accountable to our community and responsible to our community for trying to provide the best educational opportunities.
“Our community has been so supportive, and that’s something we don’t take lightly.”
The accreditation team was also tasked with finding ways for the system to improve. They offered just two required actions — set and reset measures.
“If you were to say to us, ‘give us more required actions,’ we would be hard pressed,” Spohr said. “With your district’s performance level, our challenge was to find something meaningful and useful rather than giving you something little that would be in the way … and we believe those two things do it.”
By setting measures, Spohr said he wanted the district to define what it values, and measure those items.
By resetting measures, he said the district should find other ways to measure itself.
As with test scores, the system is so high, it’s unfair to keep measuring against the state results with slightest of margins near 100 percent.
Instead, he suggested finding new ways to push students.
“You have exhausted the state scale,” he said. “There are other measures of student performance and success, even things with national and international numbers that you may find will better serve your needs.”
Evans said he’s looking forward to meeting the challenge.
“We wanted the team to give us recommendations to help point us to opportunities and they really did that,” he said.