The closing of another school year is usually a time for celebration for the students, but this year the teachers and administration of Langdon Area School District (LASD) have a lot to celebrate after achieving full accreditation status from North Dakota State AdvancED.
Posted on 5/7/16
By Melissa Anderson
AdvancED is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that conducts rigorous, on-site external reviews of PreK-12 schools and school systems to ensure that all learners realize their full potential.
“While our expertise is grounded in more than a 100 years of work in school accreditation, AdvancED is far from a typical accrediting agency. Our goal isn’t to certify that schools are good enough. Rather, our commitment is to help schools improve,” AdvancED explains on their website.
The organization is a trusted resource and partner to 32,000 schools and school systems—employing more than four million educators and enrolling more than 20 million students—across the United States and 70 other nations.
“Our schools have been under review every five years by an accreditation team,” Langdon Area School District Instructional Coach Melissa Hiltner said.
Last year (2014-2015) was the first year Langdon Area School District was reviewed by the AdvancED external team with an on-site review.
“We were ‘accredited with yearly monitoring’ because some of our areas needed support and improvement,” Hiltner explained, “They included school climate/administrator transparency, teacher collaboration and writing for academic success.”
This current school year, the LASD local AdvancED team, consisting of Jenny Romfo, Jayla Askvig and Missy Hiltner, gathered evidence and data for the on-site visit.
“We prepared all year for the visit that took place on April 20,” Hiltner stated.
This preparation paid off with a very impressed AdvancED accreditation giving high praise for the impressive growth LASD staff accomplished in that time.
“When a school is ‘accredited’ parents and stakeholders can be assured that the school a has an educational system with a rigorous and robust quality education to every learner, from every walk of life, in order to prepare them to succeed in a constantly-evolving, innovative and diverse world,” Hiltner said.
Hiltner continued by stating, “The school ‘backs up’ their vision statement, which for Langdon Area Schools is to ‘Empower every child ~ every chance ~ every day’. “
Since so many new initiatives were started and documented this year, the two person review team will recommend to the State AdvancED team in late May that LASD be ‘fully accredited.’
Some of the new initiatives that astounded AdvancED include:
• Monthly late starts for teacher collaboration and district wide initiatives, including a district wide model of instruction, research based vocabulary instruction, and collaboration on priority standards for classroom instruction.
• A new mission and vision statement – discussed and researched by teachers, community members, business members, board members and administration, and given to the students to vote on the final two ideas.
• Addition of “data rooms” in each building to help teachers analyze assessment data and work with the instructional coach to meet individualized learning for each student.
• High Reliability School Leadership team to give teacher input into school-wide initiatives and plan for the late starts each month.
• Fully trained elementary staff in the Steve Dunn writing curriculum (along with ELA teachers at the high school)
• Completion of High Reliability Training from Marzano Labs.
• Teacher teams, implemented by Mr. Hetler, to address curriculum, community relations, policies and data to help meet individual student needs.
Hiltner shared that the AdvancEd team that evaluated the school said they were amazed by the growth made during this current school year and that many schools may gain one point in various areas, but that Langdon Schools would likely gain 2-3 points.
“The team noted that community involvement this year was a strength, and they were impressed with the level that our community plays in our schools like the business support, community volunteers during our STEAM Academy and guest readers in the elementary classroom,” Hiltner shared.
“They also commended us on the weekly newspaper article done by Superintendent Mark Mindt, the many stories done by our local newspaper and WDAZ TV news, as well as our school’s Facebook page. It is a great way to keep the community aware of the positive educational experiences happening in our local school,” Hiltner continued.
The team also interviewed students and teachers during their evaluation. Students at the elementary said they were “inspired by Mr. Hetler’s morning motivation” and the school wide “team time” done monthly to highlight student success.
The high school students felt they were well prepared for their college years and had a lot of opportunities at LAHS. They liked being able to have input on the new mission and vision statements and the “STEAM Academy” “was a fun way to prepare us for the workforce”.
Teachers were appreciative of the monthly late starts and collaboration time.
“Many of us spend time in our classrooms teaching, so we don’t get time to meet as an entire staff to discuss district initiatives, 21st century skills, or even classroom management ideas,” Hiltner said, “The late starts were great for TEAM building and as a way to get to know and work with the teachers in the other building.”
LAHS Principal Daryl Timian shared that “They were very pleased with all aspects of our school and the areas of advanced as they have been addressed.”
“They mentioned that it is rare that scores improve by more than one point with an interim visit, but she said that we will probably move up two points in all categories.”
“The people from AdvancEd said this was a very fun visit and they were very impressed,” Timian finished.
LAES Principal Todd Hetler had the following to say about the achievement of reaching full accreditation, “We displayed growth in many areas in order to achieve this status. The three main areas of growth were: school climate, collaboration, writing instruction.”
“I want to thank all of you that serve our LAES students and families: teachers, custodial staff, kitchen staff and office staff. Thank you for embracing the many changes that have arrived this year. I know it has been challenging. You are the reason we are on the road to becoming a school that truly exemplifies our vision: ‘Every Child – Every Chance – Every Day’,” Hetler said, “In conclusion, I want to thank Mr. Mindt. His positive leadership and encouragement in these vital areas allowed us to meet our goals and sustain our growth.”
LASD Superintendent Mark Mindt gives all the credit for the successful review directly to the LAS AdvancEd Team, teachers, students, and community members for their support and willingness to reach new levels of professionalism and academic success directly relating to LAS. Mindt explained that from the very start, the goal was to visualize what April 2016 should look like in terms of a successful AdvancEd site visit and developed a plan accordingly.
“So much of what was documented was already happening at our district for a number of years, but a new administration encouraged our veteran teachers and administration to “Celebrate Success” in every way possible,” Mindt said, “We’ve developed a school culture where we look at the ways to improve our district with any opportunity that comes our way.”
The visiting AdvancED team was so impressed with the improvements made by LASD in just one year, they asked the AdvancED team (Romfo, Askvig and Hiltner) to present at the AdvancEd state conference this fall as a model for other schools across the state.
“This group of teachers have worked very closely with their peers to gather information that has been beneficial to our teacher-to-administration-to-community relationships,” Mindt stated.
Mindt believes that the LAS teachers and support staff are among the top tier of teachers in the state, if not nation, to serve the LASD school systems.
“We’ve recently celebrated National Teachers Week, but we will continue to honor and respect those professionals who work with our students on a daily basis.”