Leadership, Learning, Resources Among the Focus of the MCS Accreditation Review

Dr. Heather Donaldson

Chief Academic Officer

Madison City Schools


During the week of March 7, 2022, Madison City Schools went through the process of district accreditation through Cognia, an international accrediting agency formerly known as AdvancED. The Cognia review team completed an extensive review of MCS. The review team was composed of current and retired educators from Alabama with the lead reviewer being from out of state. The Cognia standards cover all areas of the school system with three primary domains: Leadership Capacity Domain (covering governance and leadership), Learning Capacity Domain (covering all academic programs, curriculum, data utilization, and assessments), and Resource Capacity Domain (covering personnel, operations, and finance).

The Cognia review team shared glowing remarks about our district after reviewing hundreds of pieces of evidence, reading narratives about the district, and interviewing 179 stakeholders. The stakeholders who were interviewed include students, teachers, parents, community partners, other instructional staff within the schools, school administrators, district administrators, the superintendent, and the Board of Education. Students, teachers, and other school instructional staff interviewed were from Heritage Elementary School, Columbia Elementary School, Discovery Middle School, and James Clemens High School.

During the exit conference, the lead reviewer said they appreciated the work done on the front end by the district with the evidence and narratives that made their job so easy. She also said they appreciated the opportunity to speak with so many stakeholders who were “committed, thoughtful, open, and honest.” The review team shared a list of words that were frequently used by stakeholders during the interviews. Those words were Family, Awesome, Excellent, Innovative, Dynamic, Resilient, Teamwork, and Diversity. The review team also shared quotes from the community stakeholder interviews: “Madison City Schools are the crown jewel of Madison,” “Innovation is what sets us apart,” and “The central office is the secret sauce that makes us successful.” Additional comments that were shared included their praise for our students and how articulate they were during the student interviews. They said to "keep doing what you are doing with your students because they are very impressive."

With the Cognia process, the review team shares themes during the exit conference. Then they write a report that includes narratives for each theme through which they reference the areas of strength and the areas for growth. We should receive this report in about 45 business days.

The four themes are as follows:

  • Culture

  • A shared commitment among all stakeholder groups to excellence, diversity and high expectations is evident.

  • Data use

  • The system consistently utilizes data to drive decision-making.

  • Curriculum and instruction

  • Instructional practices include opportunities for all learners and are aligned to a relevant and challenging curriculum based on high expectations and best practices.

  • Long-range strategic planning

  • The system demonstrates effective long-range strategic planning to support its purpose and direction.

The praise from the accreditation review team is a direct reflection of the dedication of every stakeholder within our district and the programs and best practices that are implemented in our classrooms each and every day. This is also a direct reflection of 200 school and district administrators, teachers, reading coaches, IPs, etc. who helped prepare for this process. Thank you to our district team leads for working so hard to help prepare for this review: Dr. David West, Mrs. Lee Shaw, Mrs. Sharon Powell, and Mrs. Mary Oliver. Thank you to everyone who served on a district team. Thank you to every school administrator who led a team within each of your schools. And a big thank you to our teachers who served on school teams. Over 200 MCS employees had a hand in preparing for this review, and your hard work helped to clearly demonstrate all of the best practices that exist within our district.

A process like this takes a team, and we have the best in Madison City Schools!!!

We would like to thank the members of the Cognia accreditation review team for their kindness, professionalism, and thoroughness throughout this process. We welcome the review and any suggestions for ways in which we can continue to grow the district.