FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Fort Jackson schools received favorable marks following a Quality Assurance Review conducted earlier this year.

AdvancED reviewed C.C. Pinckney and Pierce Terrace elementary schools in April, evaluating seven categories ranging from administrative policies to communication with parents. AdvancED provides accreditation, research and professional services to 23,000 schools in 65 countries, serving 15 million students.

"For both schools, communication has been listed as an opportunity for improvement," said Samantha Ingram, superintendent for the Fort Stewart/South Carolina/DoDDS-Cuba District schools. "We realize that's an area we need to continue to focus on."

Teachers, students, support staff and parents were interviewed as part of April's Quality Assurance Review. In addition, school documents and student performance data were reviewed. AdvanceED evaluated these areas using seven criteria: vision and purpose; governance and leadership; teaching and learning; documenting and using results; resource and support systems; stakeholder communications and relationships; and commitment to continuous improvement.

Pierce Terrace was operational in all seven categories, while C.C. Pinckney was graded as operational in six categories, with stakeholder communication and relationships graded as "emerging."

The school has already taken steps to correct this issue by planning regularly scheduled forums to gain input from "stakeholders" in the school, according to C.C. Pinckney Elementary School principal Annie Crandle. The goal is to engage stakeholders to commit to a "shared purpose and direction."

C.C. Pinckney Elementary was commended for its students' ability to share in the responsibility of their own success, and for how the staff actively promotes and provides "exemplary" activities for students.

"Students shared in the responsibility of their own success," Crandle said. "If you asked any of our students what the objective was in their class that day, they can tell you in student-friendly terms."

Pierce Terrace was commended for staff members having allotted time to create measures for gathering reliable, bias-free information, and for having the "necessary elements of a high-performing school." Still, the review concluded there was room from improving communication standards at the school.

Pierce Terrace has been tasked with investigating opportunities to create new processes to communicate with the school's various stakeholders, which include staff, students, parents and anyone else involved with making the school a success.

"We've already started addressing these," said Pierce Terrace principal Brian Perry. "We have to give a report (on these actions) within two years of the visit."

Among the school's proposed solutions are creating an electronic newsletter sent to parents, sending home a daily "parents communication folder" with students, and scheduling monthly forums with the principal.

Perry said it is important to let students "in on the secret of how they're doing."

Communication will be the primary focus of staff at C.C. Pinckney Elementary this year, Crandle said.

"I'm not saying we're not focused on teaching and learning, but we're determined to make sure we partner with our stakeholders so we truly build lasting relationships and improve communications," she said. "We have what it takes to be a high-performance school at Pinckney Elementary, but we need to work on communication. It has to be a community. The school can't do it alone. It takes all of us."

"We have to ensure we have effective communication at both schools that's both current and consistent," Ingram said. "One of the things (the reviewers) strongly encourage is that when we have parents who are concerned, we meet with those parents and let them know we want to hear them and discuss with them what we can do to make it better."