Rock Hill schools have received a stamp of approval from the world's largest school accreditation group.
A team from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools told education officials on Wednesday that the district will be recommended for accreditation.
That means the team, which spent several days reviewing documents, visiting schools and questioning educators, believes the district has high standards and is on the right track to boosting student achievement.
However, review team chairwoman Jacqueline Beery said Rock Hill schools need to do a better job of addressing achievement gaps between poor students and their wealthier peers.
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Schools should focus on research-based programs proven to be effective, she said in an interview.
The district also needs to better train staff on how to correctly craft school improvement plans, Beery said.
The accreditation, good for five years, would require the district to prove within two years that it's following those recommendations. A review team would return in five years.
Rock Hill school leaders will find out within a month whether SACS' parent group, AdvanceEd, approves the accreditation.
While more than 1,000 schools in South Carolina have won SACS accreditation, Rock Hill would be one of only a handful of the state's school districts with the title.
"It certainly is a feather in your cap," Beery told school officials and school board members.
The accreditation also would mean that students have access to more scholarships.
During her presentation, Beery cited highlights from the review. She gave the district kudos for:
-- "A warm, welcoming and safe learning environment."
-- "District-wide commitment to professional development for all staff."
-- "Open-door policy at both the district and school levels."
-- "Investment in instructional technology."
-- "Culture that encourages innovative, research-based programs to maintain student engagement and increase student achievement."
After Beery's presentation, school board chairman Bob Norwood thanked her.
"We're certainly proud," he said. "I don't want to sound conceited or anything, but we sort of expected this."