A team of 30 educators from across the country gave their take on the high and low points of Duval County Public education Wednesday afternoon, recommending that the district receive accreditation for another five years.
A group from national accreditation agency AdvancEd visits the district every five years to conduct the external review. Since Sunday, the committee has been in Jacksonville, observing 301 classrooms and interviewed more than 900 teachers, students, administrators, board members and parents.
Accreditation is a voluntary method of quality assurance to distinguish schools that adhere to a particular set of educational standards.
AdvancEd touts itself as the largest accreditation agency in the world, composed of former regional agencies the Southern Association of Colleges; the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation; and the Northwest Accreditation Commission.
The group performs on-site evaluations of Duval County every five years and off-site reviews every two years.
In 1964, the district lost accreditation at all 15 of its public high schools and did not gain it back again until the 1970s.
Wednesday before district officials and community members, AdvancEd Deputy Chief Accreditation Officer David Hurst applauded Superintendent Nikolai Vitti and school board members for their efforts to reform the district while also admonishing them to slow down the rate of implementing changes.
"We want to commend you on a great start, but we also want to challenge you to commit to the long-term of this change,” said Hurst.
The group said Duval excelled in areas including achieving short-term goals and data-driven professional development but needed to allow more time for new programs to stabilize.
“We can’t tell you how long that’s going to take, but it’s going to take longer than you’ve spent so far. We know that,” Hurst said.
Additionally, the review also found that the district did well in leveraging business and community partnerships as well as focusing on “the whole child.” However, the district lacked consistency and equity in its grading and reporting systems among other things. Many of the school board’s policies were also outdated, Hurst said.
A months-long internal review of the district, surveying teachers, principals and local stakeholders is also underway, officials said.
The detailed report of the agency’s findings will be released to the district next month.
Meanwhile, Vitti said he agrees with the feedback. The challenge will be finding the balance between creating stability and adhering to state-mandated changes, he said.
“That’s one of the issues that keeps me up at night,” he said. “It’s not that our systems aren’t in place. It’s that our systems and infrastructures (are) in place, but there are so many other factors that are disrupting it…but we have to focus on what’s important--student achievement and refining those systems.”
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