The COGNIA Accreditation Team recommended re-accreditation for the Barrow County School System with high rankings for school and school system effectiveness.
COGNIA, formerly known as AdvancED, conducted the Barrow County School System accreditation review from October 18 to 20, 2021. The accreditation agency issued its final report to the system in mid-November. The full report can be viewed here.
The accreditation review – undertaken every five years by the school system – is a highly detailed, data-driven, and all-encompassing examination of school and school system practices. Based on evidence and over 215 system and community interviews, the review team awarded the school system high marks in standards covering leadership capacity, teaching and learning impact, and resource management.
Each of the 31 standards used to evaluate those three areas are ranked on a four-point scale. A three is the goal for each standard, while a score of “4” shows exceptional system effectiveness in a category. BCSS was awarded a level “4” (highest rating) in 22 of the 31 COGNIA standards, and a “3” in all other areas.
Notably, a score of “4” was earned in each of the eleven Leadership Capacity standards. The review team observed that “The governing board, superintendent, and system leadership provide dedicated and focused leadership with a clear direction and commitment to the school system’s continuous improvement.”
Overall, the Barrow County School System received an “Index of Education Quality” score of 349.19 out of a possible 400, which well exceeds COGNIA’s average score of 278-283 awarded to school systems in recent years. According to COGNIA, an IEQ of 275 and above indicates a district is engaged in impactful practices ingrained in the culture of system excellence. (The last time BCSS went through accreditation in 2016, we received an IEQ of 276.)
"This is one of the proudest moments in my career," shared Superintendent Dr. Chris McMichael. "Barrow BOLD and Building Our Learning Differently are what we are all about. I think the review team saw how it is embedded in everything we do. The COGNIA process is a deep dive examination of our work. Barrow County is up there with the top schools in the state, the southeast, and in the nation. This is the proof and the validation of the hard work and intense focus of our teachers and staff that work everyday teaching and supporting our children."
In particular, the review team commended the school system for its strong leadership through their award-winning school board, respected superintendent, and effective school governance teams with their “laser focus on continuous improvement.” Driving a vision of being “Boldly Committed to Student Success,” the Superintendent was praised for his impact in ensuring the “entire team is moving in the same direction” using a collaborative approach.
Meaningful Stakeholder Engagement & Communication
A second theme the review team noted was meaningful stakeholder engagement and intentional communication efforts that provided “cornerstones of the school system’s success.” Community members, parents, staff, and students were well represented in the groups interviewed by the team, and each group spoke of regular opportunities to provide input. Strong community support was also evident through post-secondary and community partnerships. Participants also spoke with pride of the notable improvements in communications with families and the community.
Focus on Instruction
Another theme that emerged from the review was a focus on instruction with the Barrow County School System. “Educators effectively implement the system’s instructional framework by engaging in the monitoring and adjusting of instructional practices that result in meeting the specialized needs of all learners,” the report shared. The review team applauded the system on its commitment and goal to “refine the robust, developmentally appropriate curriculum that currently exists in the school system.”
Strategic Resource Management
Finally, strategic resource management was noted as a strength for the Barrow County School System. Long-range planning and wise use of human and fiscal resources clearly aligned to system needs and priorities.
"On behalf of The Barrow County Board of Education, I would like to thank Dr. McMichael and his team for the outstanding results from our recent COGNIA review," praised School Board Chair Bill Ritter.
Board member Ricky Bailey joked that he left his pom-poms at home as he shared his praise for the accomplishment. He underlined the standard that "'the system implements processes to identify and address the specialized needs of all learners' which captures what we are all about."
The COGNIA review takes a deep and thorough dive into our system and educational programs. It involves interviews with all impacted stakeholders and we are extremely proud of the report. Three recommendations were made by the recommendation team, and the review itself has provided the school system with a great opportunity for self-reflection, as well as affirmation of quality work completed over the past five years.