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Accrediting Agency, University Offer Training for Restructuring

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In a move to help schools engaged in restructuring efforts, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and Virginia Commonwealth University have teamed up to create a School Renewal Institute.

The joint effort will provide training for teachers and administrators in participatory decisionmaking, as well as ongoing support as schools in the Southeast begin to implement the strategy, according to John M. Davis, executive director of the commission on elementary schools of sacs.

"This is not just a one-time institute or training session," he said. "We want to be a liaison to schools as they restructure."

John Pisapia, chairman of vcu's division of educational studies and coordinator of the joint project, added that the partnership "sends a message" that universities have a role in school reform.

"It's a role that cannot be fulfilled just by preparing educators," he said. "It must include working side by side with practitioners on solutions to real problems."

Under the project, the institute will provide training, upon request, to teachers and administrators from the schools involved in sacs's School Renewal Project, a four-year-old reform effort based on the work of the University of Washington scholar John I. Goodlad.

The content of the training will depend on each school's needs, according to Mr. Davis. But, he noted, schools in the project have said they need an understanding in building shared-decisionmaking teams and school-site management.

Mr. Davis added that sacs, a regional accrediting agency for more than 12,000 elementary through postsecondary institutions, will encourage--but not require--participating schools to create participatory-decisionmaking models.

The agency's standards, he said, encourage schools to provide staff-development time and to involve faculty members in decisions.

"At this point, it's strictly voluntary," he said. "We don't say how it's done, or that every school has to have participatory decisionmaking."

"We have found that you cannot mandate participatory decisionmaking on a school," Mr. Davis added. "If the principal does not buy into the concept, it's a lost cause."--rr

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