Mid October usually brings beautiful fall weather to the Black Hills!  Driving through the canyon to marvel at the colors, watching wildlife in our national forest, sitting on a deck just taking in the evening air. The list could go on. What happened?  We get an early snow and an early school snow day causing all of us to wonder what this winter will really be like?  Only time will tell.

Schools are always adapting.  It is usually an uncomfortable situation when anyone or anything needs to change.  But unfortunately, it is, and forever will be, a part of life.  

All Spearfish School district parents recently received a phone call and an email soliciting input for our AdvancED accreditation.  AdvancED is now called Cognia. 

A survey link was included in the email that all parents received.  That link is:

Please take the time to complete the survey.  Your information is important to us.  We want to provide the best education possible to each and every student and we need your honest opinion and thoughts how to best do that.  In essence, how we need to adapt and change.  We want to know the good and the not so good. It is the only way we can adapt and make the necessary changes to improve the most important thing we do – Teaching and Learning.

AdvancED/Cognia is built around standards for quality and a commitment to continuous improvement. This is a dynamic effort, consistently requiring attention and revision. The accreditation process expects this commitment from all the educational institutions they serve, and we expect it from ourselves. Spearfish High School has been a part of this process for over 90 consecutive years being first accredited on April 1, 1928!!  With that, we are proud of our accreditation and believe strongly in the process.

The process marks an evolution in continuous improvement and accreditation. Cognia has the knowledge to identify and share best practices that we can apply at our school. We will be able to increase effectiveness and impact everyday classroom instruction.  The survey will focus on those areas. 

It is all about creating momentum for change that will allow us to identify gaps, address root causes for underperformance, and turn potential into practice. The goal is to get support to gauge and increase student engagement, to interpret and act on data, to assess the effectiveness of classrooms, and more.

We will have the opportunity to collaborate with experts, work with veteran educators from AdvancEd/Cognia who operate as an extension of our staff. Together we’ll articulate strengths and areas to focus on, based on our school’s evidence and data.

The accreditation process is also known in terms of its ability to effectively drive student performance and continuous improvement in education. But such definitions, though accurate, are incomplete.  While accreditation is a set of rigorous protocols and research-based processes for evaluating an institution’s organizational effectiveness, it is far more than that. Today accreditation examines the whole institution—the programs, the cultural context, the community of stakeholders—to determine how well the parts work together to meet the needs of students.  Please help us through this important process. 

To accompany your survey results, SHS has been working on an “internal” self-assessment for the past couple years.   During this time we conduct a self-assessment against a set of research-based quality standards.  This can and has produced a wealth of galvanizing insights.  Honest self-evaluation is unparalleled in its ability to uncover and bring into sharp focus special challenges for an institution that may not have been fully understood.  Each curricular area has incorporated that information into their own data derived study. Each group has selected goals that will be worked on as the school year progresses. 

This all leads to an external review that is scheduled for Feb. 23-25. 2020.  The external review is the hallmark of the accreditation process, and like the self-assessment, it energizes and equips the leadership and stakeholders of the school system to tackle those areas that may be thwarting desired performance levels.

It is the goal of Spearfish High School to move forward, to adapt to the future demands of education.  We want curricular material to be challenging, not just difficult.  We want deeper lessons that are scaffolded.  We want students to transform from learning individually to working collaboratively.  We want relevant homework that is interesting and a natural extension of the classroom, not just something that is assigned. We want to adapt from having the teacher being the sole source of information to having the entire classroom as an information resource.  We want a supportive and encouraging climate in which all students want to learn.  We want students to be able to think and reason.  We want all students to be college and/or career ready. 

SHS desires a high expectation of success for all students.  Please help us get there!  Be involved. 

John F Kennedy said it best – “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”

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