CNMI Public Schools Get System-Wide Accreditation Nod

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Marianas’ PSS first in region to achieve state-level accreditation

By Junhan B. Todeno

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Oct. 11, 2013) – "Cohesive." That’s how the visiting team from AdvancED summed up its description of the overall performance of the Northern Marianas Public School System (PSS) which they recommended for accreditation system-wide.

The team led by AdvancED chief accreditation officer Dr. Annette Bohling said PSS is the first school in the Pacific region to achieve a state-level accreditation.

The system-level accreditation is from the Board of Education (BOE) to the PSS leadership or central office to schools and stakeholders.

PSS is now one of the over 65 percent or among the 20,800 of the 32,000 schools and 20 million students that AdvancED has accredited at a system-wide level.

AdvancED or Advance Education has a globally recognized and research-based Standards for Quality School Systems that it applies and implements in accreditation processes — system/district-wide accreditation processes.

"We have been exceedingly pleased to see the commitment to continue improvement that the entire PSS has shown and demonstrated through all of their leadership from state level down to classroom level and stakeholders," she told Variety after an executive session of the Board of Education which the 10-member team and PSS staff led by Commissioner Rita A. Sablan attended.

Ludwig "Ludy" van Broekhuizen, AdvancED chief innovative officer, in a separate interview said he appreciated the "cohesive nature" of the entire PSS from the governance of the BOE to the leadership of the commissioner and to the leadership of the principal.

"It’s a very cohesive unit," he said.

Bohling said the PSS leadership is the "biggest strength right now on what we see" although there are some challenges, especially on the resources.

"It’s just been a great experience to see a system like CNMI PSS go through it with the school and have all the processes at both the system level and school level be evaluated, that takes courage and that it’s really forward thinking because that’s where the power is to work cohesively as a system," she said.

During their two-week visit, Bohling said they talked with the students and observed in every school, spending so much time in the classrooms.

Asked to compare PSS with other institutions on the mainland, Bohling said PSS is "totally at par."

"I have to say that you are doing all tremendous things. You have so much to be proud of; your students are going to be very well prepared to go and be successful wherever they may be," she said, while looking at Sablan during the interview.

In response, Sablan said she was very happy about the outcome of the external review.

"The systems level accreditation is really about the schools, central office, the board of education and everyone including our partners working together to make things happen for our children," she said.

"That’s all I can say right now. I’m just very speechless but definitely I want to echo the sentiment of the lead evaluators," she said, adding the team has seen lots of wonderful things happening.

She added that there are areas for them to follow up for improvement and continue to improve for the system.

"I’m very grateful for what they have shared with us most especially PSS being recommended for accreditation system-wide — and this is a historic first," she said.

The final recommendation is for PSS to be accredited to the system-level to the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement-Northwest Accreditation Commission.

The AdvancED is looking into the compliance of the Standards for Quality School Systems which include standards that are research-based, comprehensive quality statements that describe conditions that are necessary for educational institutions and systems to achieve quality student performance and organizational effectiveness.

These standards support an education process that is truly visionary; characterizing how organizations should operate to promote a culture of continuous learning that is fluid — engaging leaders, staff and students.

The standards for quality school systems

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