Cognia Special Review
Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) is preparing to undergo a Special Review from its accrediting body, Cognia (formerly AdvancED and SACS). GCPS was first contacted by Cognia on March 1, 2021, notifying the district that it had received numerous complaints regarding the school system. According to the letter, the complaints were submitted by members of the community and primarily centered on the Gwinnett County School Board upholding its duties as a governing body and selected members adhering to their roles and responsibilities as members of the Board.
GCPS responded to that initial letter on March 24, 2021. In that letter, CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks noted that GCPS and its Board of Education understand the importance of accreditation as a measure of quality and success and as a tool for improvement. In that letter, he provided responses to specific concerns noted by Cognia.
On April 19, 2021, GCPS received notification from Cognia that based on its review of the information contained in the district’s response letter and its accompanying exhibits, the accrediting agency felt a Special Review was warranted. Cognia stated that the decision was supported by additional complaints received against the district since its March 1, 2021, notification. It indicated the nature of the additional complaints aligned with many of the allegations cited within the initial notification letter.
GCPS is preparing for the Special Review, which will take place June 13-16. The review will include interviews with a wide range of community members, including School Board members, the superintendent, teachers, administrators, students, parents, and other community members. In addition, the district will provide Cognia with information to demonstrate its adherence to Cognia’s Performance Standards for School Systems.
GCPS and Cognia Accreditation
Gwinnett County Public Schools last had its External Review Team Accreditation Visit in March 2017. During that visit, the accrediting team examined key components of the school district. Areas under review included leadership, governance, student performance results, student engagement data, support services, curriculum quality and efficacy, allocation and use of resources, equity of resource distribution to need, level and sustainability of resources, long-range capital, and resource planning. The district received an overall score of 340.38 out of a total 400 during this extensive review. (At the time, the AdvancEd Network Average was 278.94.)
In the 2017 accreditation review report, a number of “Powerful Practices” were noted. The first cited GCPS for fostering a “Culture of Collaboration, Excellence, and Pride.” This Powerful Practice specifically mentioned that the “Board knows role of organization,” and that there is “collaboration between district office and school.” The report also stated that GCPS maintains a clearly defined and expansive student assessment system and that the district frequently monitored and analyzed data regarding student achievement, school performance, and progress towards system improvement goals and that this information is consistently communicated to all stakeholder groups. Lastly, the report noted as a Powerful Practice that GCPS uses a systematic, systemic, and collaborative process to monitor, review, and revise curricular, instructional, and assessment practices throughout the district.