Cobb School District keeps accreditation; given year by Cognia to clean up its act
A report from Cobb County School District’s accrediting firm, Cognia, has left the County’s accreditation in place, but has found several issues with the tumultuous school board that needs improvement. Cognia has given members a year to clean up their ‘bad acts’ which includes open conflicts with each other at public meetings, violation of the board’s code of ethics, and concerns on how the board members communicate with members of the public.
Although the company had said that Cobb schools’ accreditation was not at stake when they launched their special review, many in Cobb remained concerned with the possible loss, which would have been the worst-possible punishment for students and parents. They have watched a forever feuding board attempt to conduct the school system’s business, and many wrote to Cognia to share concerns about the dysfunction. Cobb’s parents had good reason to be concerned. In 2008, Cognia’s predecessor company revoked Clayton County’s accreditation, citing, among other things, infighting on its school board. Likewise, in 2011, Cognia put DeKalb County’s accreditation on probation.
When Cognia first announced its review, Cobb Schools Superintendent Chris Ragsdale cautioned parents that a loss of accreditation could jeopardize graduates’ odds of getting into college or securing HOPE scholarships, hinder teacher recruitment and retention, and decrease county property values.
After conducting an investigation that began this summer, Cognia finally issued their report last week. According to the report, Cognia found areas in which the school district and its governing board must improve. Cognia’s report said it also found that “most” of the members on the Cobb Board of Education do not follow their own ethics code, that there is no “consistent and formal process” for making purchasing decisions, that the district is making progress on closing the “achievement gap” among its students, that the district’s strategic plan lacks measurable goals, and that infighting on the school board has cast the district in a negative light.
The report went on to say, “Based on the findings of the Special Review Team, Cognia concludes that the district will retain its current Accredited status while it addresses the Recommendations, Directives, and Improvement Priorities outlined in this Special Review Report.” To show that they are making progress on the issues that were identified, Cognia has put in place a review process, saying “A Progress Monitoring Review will be scheduled in the next 12 months to examine the progress made by the district. “The date listed for the review is December of 2022 but does not go into details on what will happen to the district or its accreditation if Cognia were to find the district’s progress unsatisfactory.
Cognia’s special review was launched after the accreditation agency received a letter from the three Democrats on the school board as well as messages from 50 members of the district’s staff and community — many of them unhappy with infighting and partisan rancor.
Cognia evaluators conducted 45-minute virtual interviews with Ragsdale and all seven Cobb school board members as well as interviews with senior district staff and principals, along with group interviews with teachers, parents, students, and the community. The district also submitted over 1,000 individual pieces of evidence in response to Cognia’s questions.
In three of the four standards, the district was given a rating of “initiating,” or a 2 on a 4-point scale — with 4 being the best — as well as several “directives” for improvement. On the fourth, educational equity, the district was given a rating of “improving,” or a 3 on a 4-point scale, as well as several “recommendations” for improvement. You can read the full report from Cognia here: https://sbcobbstor.blob.core.windows.net/media/WWWCobb/medialib/cobb-county-school-district-special-review-report-11-8-2021.e9ad7057649.pdf