“To the power of e”

This year is a very important one for us in Laurens County School District 56. In March we will welcome a small number of external reviewers from the national accreditation agency, AdvancED. Formerly known as SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools). AdvancED serves as the gold standard for educational accreditation and certification. AdvancED is the largest community of education professionals in the world. They are 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 their expertise is grounded in more than 100 years of work in school accreditation, AdvancED is far from a typical accrediting agency. Their goal isn’t to certify that schools are good enough. Rather, their commitment is to help schools improve. As a veteran educator, I know how important it is we continue to improve our practice, our craft, and our system. Children may not change but the technology does and the research constantly improves. We are in a year-long self-reflection and self-evaluation determining how well we are doing the basic things: helping students graduate and be prepared for their next level or endeavor. We now undertake take the role of rethinking our vision, our mission, and our constancy of purpose. We look at our efforts through the lens of the AdvancED rubric and criteria. We rank our performance both at the district and the school level according to a clearly worded description of capacity and demonstration (on a one to four scale). In working through numerous meetings and an ocean of data, we now begin to enter the homestretch prior to their visit (to determine if what we think of ourselves match what they see and observe). Having spent much time assessing our present system, we now focus on four key deliverables…something we call “to the power of e.” There is a great deal of mathematical discussion over that phrase “to the power of e.” Much of it is far beyond my desire to stay on the island of arithmetic; however, in a gross oversimplification think of “to the power of e” as the role of exponents. Exponents are those dreaded little superscript numbers that give incredible power (hence the term exponential) to the base number. Consequently, we too believe our own “to the power of e” can exponentially increase our service and delivery of a top quality system for all of our students and staff. Our four e’s include: • Engage all stakeholders in the support of quality education and continuous improvement; • Empower students to use technology resources to support learning; • Educate in an environment that promotes creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, communication, and character; and • Elevate the academic performance of each student to ensure readiness for the next level. Over the next four newspaper articles I will outline each one of the above with more definition and clarity. We take our AdvancED visit seriously because we know education is very serious business. Teaching is not for the weak or faint of heart. Teaching in particular and working in any educational capacity in general require a clear understanding things change. Society changes, family structure changes, and, yes, the times, they are a-changing too. But children deserve our very best. We too refine our craft, implement new strategies and new technologies, and expand our network of collaborators and partners. We want the citizens of Clinton, Cross Hill, Joanna, Mountville, and all places in between to realize we are serious about our children. We also recognize we cannot do it alone. Everyone has a place at the table. Everyone has a role, a task, a duty! Everyone! Maybe that word, everyone, is the most powerful one of all in our thinking “to the power of e.” Will you stand with us? (Dr. David O’Shields is superintendent of Laurens County School District 56. His column can also be read online at MyClintonNews.com.)

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