Schools are in the business of educating others, but Ralston Public Schools believes there is value in educating its own.
That desire to further their own education is a major component in RPS receiving another five-year accreditation through the AdvancED program.
The international program recognizes schools and districts who want to go beyond the required state accreditation. RPS was first accredited in 2014 and recently completed its evaluation to receive another five-year term.
RPS Superintendent Mark Adler said the AdvancED program is a way for RPS to continue setting high standards for itself and its teachers and students.
“School improvement is important to me,” he said. “We want to be showing continuous improvement and we hope that we’re always moving in a positive direction, and I want that direction to be forward.”
AdvancED evaluators, four from Nebraska and two from out of state, recently spent three days observing RPS. They spent a day with administrators at the RPS Central Office before observing about 70 different classrooms throughout the district the following day.
The final day is spent writing a report and giving a presentation to administrators.
“AdvancED is recognized across the country and it’s a very rigorous process,” Adler said. “They set performance standards for schools to see that they are doing things systematically. We have eight schools and we want to make sure we are delivering a level of quality at each one of them.”
Adler said even though the district showed solid progress, there are always areas they can look to better themselves.
“They’ll come in and tell us what we do that’s awesome, but they also recommend ways that can help us grow and make our system even better,” he said. “One of the ways we could show improvement is to increase higher advanced thinking skills with the students.
“Also, through program education, there are some things we can do better. There’s only so much time in the day, so what can we do to be the most effective? And if those things we’re doing aren’t effective, we need to take them off the plate.
“Maybe there’s a test that we used, then we put it on the shelf and didn’t use it for another year. We can look at the process and see if it’s effective, or maybe there’s a way we can be more effective.”
Adler believes one of the biggest benefits of the AdvancED program is building continuity within the district, especially as students transition to different levels.
“The transition from elementary to middle school to high school is very important to us and we work really hard to help take some of those anxieties away,” he said.
Adler said he is a firm believer that receiving the AdvancED accreditation is critical in helping the district continue to flourish.
“It is a lot of work and there is a cost, but it’s so valuable for us, I don’t see how we can not do it,” Adler said. “The information is invaluable and gives us a way to plan.”