WIESBADEN, Germany - Accreditation teams took a hard look at Aukamm Elementary and Wiesbaden Middle schools in late April and liked what they saw.

Members of the national school accreditation organization, AdvancEd, augmented by Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe administrators, spent several days at each of the schools examining all aspects of the learning environment ranging from parental and community involvement to staff collaboration, efforts at continuous improvement to resources and support.

"During the three-day visit, the review team observed 45 classrooms, interviewed 45 staff members, 23 students and 18 parents," said Dr. Susan Hargis, Wiesbaden Middle School principal, about the team's assessment at her school. "Their observations and interviews highlighted many powerful practices … that mindfully and deliberately integrate teaching, learning and success into the learning environment.

"The external review accreditation process allowed our school team important recognition and validation for the tremendous effort put forth by all in preparation for the visit," said Hargis, praising the "great students and great teachers" for their constant engagement in helping the middle school excel.

Likewise, Aukamm Elementary School received a big thumbs-up from the visiting AdvancEd team, both schools being recommended for five more years of accreditation.

Among team findings were such observations as:

* A clear vision evident throughout the school's culture; * Active, energetic and engaged leadership; * A warm and inclusive climate promoting academic, social, emotional and physical student well-being; * Collaboration among staff, students, parents and community partners; * Caring faculty members who connect with their students; * Highly engaged families; * Community partnerships; * Safe, clean and well-maintained building.

Hargis explained that the school's administrators and teachers are already hard at work in meeting requirements recommended by the accreditation team to improve overall performance, including:

* Developing and documenting a written protocol at the classroom level for the use of school-wide student performance data; * Selecting, consistently administering, analyzing and using the result of common assessments to inform instructional practices in all classes; and * Developing and documenting a protocol for the ongoing management and effective use of school-wide performance data.

"We are already actively engaged in meeting these requirements in a manner that validates our efforts from this school year and aligns with what is planned for the next school year," Hargis said.

"Accreditation, for which our schools were fully recommended, is valid for five years, but the accreditation cycle of continuous school improvement is ongoing in our schools," said Peter Witmer, U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden school liaison officer.

About 30 days after returning to the United States the team presents its full report for each of the schools to the review committee which will then endorse the team's findings and award accreditation, Witmer said.

Wiesbaden High and Hainerberg Elementary schools will undergo the accreditation renewal process next school year, Witmer added. (Editor's note: For more information visit www.advanc-ed.org)