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Cognia, In Pursuit of Excellence

Currently, North Dakota uses Cognia (formerly AdvancED) statewide for educational accountability and as a system of improvement for all public schools. Cognia is a global nonprofit that has the knowledge to help schools improve outcomes for all learners; they work with systems to clearly assess the quality of the institution and to better meet the needs of every student. As part of this process, every district in North Dakota is required to have an external review every five years by a team consisting of trained educators from across the nation. West Fargo Public Schools (WFPS) had their external review on November 11-14, 2019.

The role of the external review team is to gather first-hand information to evaluate the district’s performance against the Cognia Performance Standards. In this process, the team of six interviewed multiple stakeholder groups (over 250 individuals), reviewed various documents (monitoring reports, student achievement data, surveys, etc.), and observed and assessed the quality of learning environments (more than 50 classrooms) to gain insights regarding our leadership, teaching and learning, and utilization of resources.
The preliminary report provided by the lead evaluator on the last day indicated that our district was extremely strong and has a great deal to be proud of. It included the following celebrations:

  • WFPS has established a supportive, empowering, and compassionate culture rich in high expectations and support for staff, students, and families.
    • Commitment to the vision across the district and with all stakeholders
    • Empowerment and trust for individual leaders, instructional staff, and students
    • Openness at all levels for two-way communication
    • High challenge/expectation & high support (tight/loose)
  • There is a purposeful clarity of roles supported by explicit systems and procedures for day-to-day effective operations and long-term innovation.
    • Coherent Governance
    • High challenge/expectation and high support
    • Openness at all levels for two-way communication
    • Tightness of policy and process – “tight”/“top down”
    • Forward-thinking and innovation – “loose”/“bottom up”
    • Strategic resource management

Cognia provides detailed analysis and feedback; their team gathers evidence about the quality of learning environments using Cognia’s performance standards and research instruments. They provide a thorough report which provides a broad understanding and detailed insight into where our system excels and where we may need to consider additional focus and/or resources. The district will receive this report of the team’s findings within the next few weeks. We will gain insight into the following:

  • Do we provide equitable, safe, supportive, and active learning environments across the district?
  • Do we have high expectations for all learners, both students and staff members?
  • Do we have a process for continuous improvement, and do we monitor it?
  • Do we provide digital learning environments to prepare today’s learners for tomorrow’s world?
  • Do we have strong leadership?
  • Do we utilize resources equitably and responsibly?
  • Do we have processes and protocols in place to ensure efficiencies across the district?

Once the report is final, it will be shared with administration, our School Board, staff, and will then be made public. More information will be available at the Superintendent’s State of the Schools address in January, in the West Fargo Pioneer, and on our website.

Dr. Rachael Agre
(701) 356-2001