Lynchburg Business Magazine / April 2013

Lynchburg city schools have a mission—“every child, by name and by need, to graduation.” Ingrained in this approach is the city’s commitment to quality education and continual improvement that has resulted in E.C. Glass High School’s most recent accolade—one hundred years of continuous accreditation with AdvancED, the largest accrediting organization in the world.  

At the AdvancED winter conference in Williamsburg, Va. this past February, E.C. Glass principal Dr. Tracy Richardson and school board member Marie Waller were presented with a certificate honoring the school’s notable achievement.  Waller, a teacher at E.C. Glass for 43 years—close to half the duration the school has been accredited—has now retired but is still intimately involved with E.C. Glass High School, both as a board member and volunteer.  Richardson became principal in July of last year after teaching at the school from 1999 to 2002. 

A single entity born of three separate accreditation agencies—the Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA CASI), the Council on Accreditation and School Improvement of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS CASI) and the Northwest Accreditation Commission (NWAC)—AdvancED is “the global leader in advancing education excellence through accreditation and school improvement.”  It is an international organization that serves more than 30,000 public schools in 70 countries and accredits 25 percent of U.S. schools. 

AdvancED provides a “clear and comprehensive program of evaluation and external review, supported by research-based standards, and [is] dedicated to helping schools, districts and education providers continuously improve.”

This accreditation program includes five standards of evaluation: Purpose and Direction, Governance and Leadership, Teaching and Assessing for Learning, Resources and Support Systems, and Using Results for Continuous Improvement.  Within each category are varying protocols that further define the actions required to fulfill the standard. 

While there are some who may question the value, effectiveness or necessity of accreditation, it is perhaps the rigorous self-evaluation and self-assessment it demands on the part of schools and districts, rather than the seal of quality it is meant to indicate, that is—in the end—most valuable. 

“When you invite SACS [AdvancED] in to look at what you’re doing, then it validates it on a national level—you’re competing with schools all across the country—and you’re open to people looking at your practices,” said Richardson, who believes that accreditation is of significant worth to both the school’s educators and its students.

The Lynchburg City School’s 2012-2014 Comprehensive Improvement Plan agrees.

“Fully accredited schools provide programs that challenge the intellect and maximize the potential of each student.”

E.C. Glass is accredited by both AdvancED and the Virginia State Department of Education and, in the past decade, has ranked nationally in Newsweek and the Washington Post’s top 5 percent of public high schools.

Founded in 1871 as a two-room high school and named after the Superintendent of Lynchburg Public Schools in 1920, E.C. Glass now educates 1,406 students and has undergone 25 million dollars in renovations. Despite the city’s not having received pertinent grant money that several surrounding counties did obtain, the school boasts the greatest number of Advanced Placement classes offered in Central Virginia—25.  

This is a distinction of which Richardson is especially proud.

“Lynchburg didn’t receive a grant and, even still, we’re at the top.”

She also points to the school’s lower than average drop-out rates and the time she, the administrative teams, guidance counselors and teachers take to get to know students and their needs. 

“We talk about them name by name, need by need, and so we definitely try to provide that extra safety net for students,” said Richardson. 

To her, the stated mission of Lynchburg City Schools is more than a catchy turn of phrase.

“Every child, by name and by need, to graduation—I really don’t think it’s a motto. I think it’s what we practice.” 

In the fall of 2013, E.C. Glass will provide its students with access to two new acceleration opportunities: the Governor’s STEM Academy XLR8 and the CVCC Early College Program.  The former is a regional program offering juniors and seniors in Lynchburg and Amherst, Appomattox, Bedford and Campbell Counties the chance to get a leg up on their post-secondary education or career aspirations by taking courses in science, technology, engineering and mathematics at the Governor’s STEM Academy.

The Central Virginia Community College Early College (CVCC) Program will allow 25 motivated Lynchburg city school students to graduate from high school with both a high school diploma and an Associate of Arts and Sciences degree in General Studies. Participants in the Early College Program will spend the majority of their junior and senior years on the CVCC campus.