Cognia Accreditation Engagement Review (formerly AdvancED)

Updated April 18, 2022

On March 20-25, 2022 the DeKalb County School District (DCSD) engaged in a Cognia Accreditation Engagement Review. Cognia, formerly known as AdvancED, is the global leader in preschool through 12th grade accreditation services and is responsible for conducting five-year accreditation renewal visits for member school districts. A preliminary presentation released by Cognia during an Exit Report on Friday March 25, 2022 shows that the team will recommend DeKalb County School District receive a five-year renewal of its accreditation following this intense review.

Kids SmilingBeginning on Sunday, March 20, 2022, the DeKalb County School District virtually hosted a twelve-member team comprised of educational professionals from Georgia who visited the DeKalb County School District for the purpose of reviewing internal processes and practices around three core areas: leadership, learning, and resource utilization. During the visit, thirty schools were visited, 136 parent/community stakeholders were interviewed as well as 271 school administrators/leadership teams, 251 teachers, and 215 students. In addition, Superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris delivered an Overview presentation to the team supported by an Executive Summary to anchor the information shared. Overall, more than 800 internal and external stakeholders were engaged in the virtual review process.

In the final report, DCSD was recognized for having a solid growth mindset that focuses on improving teaching and learning with a renewed focus and increased accountability. In addition, DCSD scored above the average of all Cognia Improvement Network (CIN) institutions evaluated for accreditation in the last five years.

Click to view the Executive Summary prepared by the district and/or the final Engagement Review Report released by Cognia.


March 15, 2017 October 3, 2016
December 6, 2013
March 7, 2013

Strategic Plan

In the fall of 2013, DeKalb County School District embarked on the development of a five-year Strategic Plan. The desired outcome is to align the work in the District from the boardroom to the classroom for the ultimate purpose of increasing student achievement and organizational effectiveness. In December of 2013, the Board of Education approved the following Strategic Plan components: Vision, Mission, Motto, Beliefs, Goal Areas, and Performance Objectives. Implementation of the plan began at the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year. The District created performance measures, targets, and initiatives to ensure success in each of the five goal areas. A monitoring and data collection cycle process was also developed and implemented.

Frequently Asked Questions

Accreditation is the act of granting credit or recognition, especially to an educational institution that maintains suitable standards.
Definitions of accreditation:

  • the act of granting credit or recognition (especially with respect to educational institution that maintains suitable standards)
Information found at:

AdvancED is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that conducts rigorous, on-site external reviews of PreK-12 schools and school systems to ensure that all learners realize their full potential. While expertise is grounded in more than a hundred years of work in school accreditation, AdvancED is far from a typical accrediting agency. The goal of AdvancED isn’t to certify that schools are good enough. Rather, they have a commitment to help schools improve.

Information found at

DeKalb County School District is fully accredited by AdvancED/SACS. District accreditation includes all schools and District offices.
In 2012, AdvancED commissioned a Special Review Committee to review complaints of financial mismanagement and low student performance in DeKalb School District. The report from the Special Review Committee identified eleven Required Actions that DCSD had to address in order to retain accreditation. At that time, AdvancED, lowered DeKalb’s accreditation status to Accredited on Probation.

In 2013, as a result of that report, the BOE and District embarked on a three-year journey of school improvement to ensure that DeKalb did not lose accreditation. The District addressed AdvancED’s Required Actions, which included a thorough review of policies, procedures, and processes utilized by District. At approximate six-month intervals, AdvancED monitored DeKalb’s progress. During each progress check, the District submitted an extensive formal progress report to AdvancED. Upon receipt of DeKalb’s report, a Monitoring Team from AdvancED would visit the District to review the evidence, conduct stakeholder interviews, and examine artifacts to determine the degree of improvement made from the previous visit. Periodically, AdvancED would add additional Required Actions which increased the number from eleven to fourteen. During the three-year period, the District was upgraded to Accredited-Warned and then Accredited on Advisement.

On December 18, 2015, as required by AdvancED, the DCSD submitted a formal report to the accrediting agency. In January, 2016, upon completion of review of the report, AdvancED determined that the District had sufficiently addressed all Required Actions and returned the district to full Accreditation.

In order to earn and/or maintain AdvancED Accreditation, a school or school system must: 1) meet the Accreditation Standards, Policies and Procedures of AdvancED; 2) host an External Review Team at least once every five years; 3) engage in continuous improvement; 4) submit all required accreditation reports; and 5) pay all required accreditation fees.

More information

DeKalb County School District received a letter from AdvancED on January 28, 2016 indicating that we had been granted full Accreditation status. We have now shifted our focus to the process of renewing our 5-Year System’s Accreditation with AdvancED in 2017. To that end, DeKalb School District has prepared a 15-month timeline of action beginning with technical assistance training for district and school teams on March 15 & 18, 2016, to be conducted by AdvancED. This training will allow for AdvancEd to review, with specific personnel from each school and a team of District leaders, the process and tools necessary for facilitating successful accreditation renewal for DeKalb County School District and its schools.
No, the State of Georgia recognizes the two accrediting agencies for public K-12 schools listed below: (1) AdvancED and (2) Georgia Accrediting Commission (GAC).
Yes, in 2014-15, the DCSD completed the application process to accredit the highs schools within the school district. Once the application was accepted by GAC, DCSD high schools completed the rigorous task of ensuring compliance with GAC standards and undergoing an examination by GAC officials at DeKalb’s high school sites. After GAC officials completed the site visits, the Commission recommended that DCSD high schools earn accreditation. In a letter to the Superintendent of DCSD dated March 19, 2015, the GAC Board of Commissioners accredited all DCSD high schools as a GAC: Accredited with Quality School.

GAC information found at Georgia Accrediting Commission.

Dual accreditation benefits the students of DeKalb County in the following manner:
  • Offers two sources of accreditation for universities and colleges to consider when reviewing applications from DCSD students
  • Provides two independent outside assessments of school quality and adherence to standards by DCSD high schools
  • Ensures eligible graduates from DCSD will be able to enroll in a Georgia college or university, regardless of whether one or the other accreditation agency removes accreditation from the DCSD

Flexibility Options

Georgia law has mandated that by June 30, 2015, all school districts in the state must inform the Georgia Department of Education of any intention to seek waivers from state law and Department of Education policies and regulations. If a school district chooses not to seek any waivers, it must acknowledge that it will not do so and that it understands that none will be given after June 30, 2015, except in cases of natural disaster. What is being offered to school districts is the flexibility to innovate and increased autonomy, including waivers from state laws, rules, and guidelines, in exchange for greater accountability and higher student performance expectations.

Over 18 months, DeKalb County School District worked with parents, students, employees and community members to gather insights and feedback on the strengths and challenges of the District as well as the practices which would yield the best results for students in the future. After this extensive process and a public hearing, DeKalb County Board of Education decided that the flexibility option that best aligned with the District’s values and student needs was the Strategic Waivers School System option.

For more information, see School Flexibility Option.