NEWBERRY — Newberry Academy was recently awarded Advanced Accreditation from the South Carolina Independent School Association, according to Brian Fitzgerald, head of school.
The process, which Fitzgerald said took about a year to complete, was tedious, but well worth it.
Newberry Academy has earned Basic Accreditation each year, but Fitzgerald said he felt strongly that they were meeting the advanced standards when he came to the school.
“I told the board and the faculty we were going to go for it,” Fitzgerald said.
Some of the standards for advanced accreditation include:
• The school must have a well-established budget making process
• Service personnel must be equipped by training and background for the positions they hold
• The school must be concerned with the cognitive powers (knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, evaluation) of each student
• Educational methods such as bringing in speakers and providing seminars for educational methods
• The school must have an SAT standard of either a 1100 average split score of the top 25 percent of students that take the SAT or ACT equivalent. They must also have a Stanford Achievement score of 60 percent of the national percentile or better on the total battery over four grade levels for the year previous to accreditation.
After a year of putting appropriate documentation together, Fitzgerald said they received a site visit in November 2013 and received word of accreditation in May of this year.
The school was due for a visit last spring, however when there is a head of school change, SCISA gives the school a six month extension, which Fitzgerald said they took advantage of to prepare for this.
The two-day visiting team consisted of a minimum of two college professors, one headmaster from another SCISA school, and two master teachers from SCISA schools with expertise in different fields from each other, according to SCISA’s accreditation information.
While basic accreditation is good for three years, this level of accreditation is good for five years, however Fitzgerald said SCISA may do periodic followups and visits to be sure Newberry Academy is maintaining their level of excellence.
“SCISA does a great job of supporting their schools,” Fitzgerald said. “We talk with their central office weekly.”
It’s the students
Fitzgerald said the honor of receiving advanced accreditation is validation of the academic rigor that the school represents.
“The fact that we achieve those standards — I’m just so proud of what our kids do, and what our faculty and staff are able to do with them,” Fitzgerald said.
As far as admission into Newberry Academy, Fitzgerald said there are no quantitative requirements such as a GPA score that they look that, but rather several key factors they look at.
A student’s potential for success and pattern of success is one of the first qualities that Fitzgerald said they look for in a potential student. Another is discipline.
“We want high character kids here,” Fitzgerald said. “I think that has been a staple of Newberry Academy.”
The next part of admission includes a personal interview with the student and family of the child/children. Fitzgerald said it’s a good way to get a sense on if the student or family has a commitment to invest in the child’s education. Next, Fitzgerald said they ask that the student spend half a day with them at the school and attend class to make sure that they are comfortable and feel the school is a good fit for them.
Future of the school
During the accreditation process, Fitzgerald said they used it as a time to do a curriculum overhaul — looking through their curriculum vertically and horizontally and comparing it to what other schools were doing.
“We’re not finished yet,” he said. “It’s a map to what we’re going in the classroom. We’ve done a great job, but I think you’re going to see us do better.”
Having been a representative on SCISA visits to other schools, Fitzgerald said it was insightful in preparing for their own visit. Both parents, students, and faculty were sent documentation so that everyone was aware of the visit ahead of time and that there were no surprises.
Fitzgerald sees the advanced accreditation as a huge step for Newberry Academy and said he was ecstatic to see SCISA validate what he was already feeling about the school’s success.
Sometime in the near future, he said he wanted the school to explore regional or even national accreditation, as it’s representative of the direction they’re taking as a school — moving forward and progressing.
“This (accreditation) represents 12 months of effort collectively by faculty and staff,” Fitzgerald said.