A five-person External Review Team from the AdvanceED accrediting agency recommended Wednesday afternoon that the Monroe County School District be awarded "District Accreditation" as a quality school system.
The recommendation took place during a special meeting of the school board, and will take about a month to process, according to team leader Maureen Ryff. A number of advantages will be afforded to district parents and students as a result.
Students will now find it easier to transfer credits from one school to another, access federal loans, scholarships, and postsecondary and military programs which require students to attend accredited institutions.
Using a scoring rubric from 1 to 4 in seven different areas, the district scored an overall grade of 293 out of 400.
The district's strongest mark of 3.29 came in the area of providing a "Supportive Learning Environment." Its lowest, a 1.48, was awarded for the "Digital Learning Environment" provided to district students.
"These are good scores," Ryff stated, during a Power Point presentation to Superintendent of Schools Mark Porter, several of his administrative staff, and the board. "I can't emphasize that enough. You're never going to be perfect."
During the course of the team members' time in the Keys, they conducted 132 interviews with teachers, students, parents, support staff, administrators and school board members.
Individual team members also traveled to a number of district schools, from Coral Shores High School in the Upper Keys to Gerald Adams Elementary School in Key West.
Porter was pleased to hear Ryff's recommendation.
"This is very good news for the district, and another feather in our cap, during what has turned out to be a pretty good week for us," Porter said, referring to the contract agreement struck between the district and its employees' union, earlier in the week. "Plus, bringing in outside evaluators helps us to understand what we're doing well, and what we still need to work on. Being somewhat of an isolated district, it's a little harder for us to just step next door to find out what they're doing differently."
While districts are scored during the process, it's rare to see one actually "fail" to be accredited, Ryff said.
"Usually what happens, if the scores are really low, is that we work with the districts to get them to where they need to be," she said. "We don't really operate on a 'pass' or 'fail' basis."