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Florence 1 Schools earns high Education Quality Score through Cognia accreditation process

FLORENCE, SC– Florence One Schools is proud to announce that the district has earned system accreditation from Cognia, a nonprofit organization providing quality assurance for schools, school districts, and education service providers. With this prestigious accreditation, Florence One Schools is now recognized nationally as a school system that meets Cognia Standards of Quality and maintains a commitment to continuous improvement.

In the final report from Cognia, Florence 1 earned an Index of Education Quality (IEQ) Score of 350 out of a possible 400. By comparison, Anderson School District 1 earned an IEQ of 331; Richland School District 1 earned 338, and Richland School District 2 earned 340.

“Florence 1 Schools has been particularly focused on improving academic outcomes for all students across the district the past four years,” said F1S Board Member Barry Townsend. “As I participated in interviews as a part of the Cognia accreditation process, it was both exciting and gratifying to discuss the changes we have made and the initial results of this hard work. I believe that our record-setting graduation rates the past two years and the Excellent Education Quality Score we received from Cognia attest that we are on the right path to achieving academic excellence for all F1S students.” 

“An IEQ of 275 and above indicates the institution is beginning to reach the Impact level and is engaged in practices that are sustained over time and are becoming ingrained in the culture of the institution,” the report said.

To earn accreditation through Cogia, Florence 1 had to submit evidence of internal and external controls and plans for continuous improvement. The three domains for the evidence collected were Leadership Capacity, Learning Capacity, and Resource Capacity. Within those domains, standards were measured as either Impacting, Improving, Initiating, or Insufficient. Of the 31 standards measured in the district, 21 were rated as Impacting, the highest rating. 

Hayley Gainey, Chief Accountability Officer, said going through the accreditation review revealed to her just how much change has taken place in Florence 1 Schools over the last few years. 

“Sometimes you don't appreciate everything as it is happening in real-time,” Gainey said. “As we looked back and gathered evidence for the accreditation standards, the amount of change and growth in the last five years was astronomical. The most exciting part is that we are not stopping here; there is so much more to come for our district!”

Florence 1 will maintain its accreditation for another five years before it will have to go through the review process again. In the final report’s narrative, the review board praised the district’s strategic plan and stakeholder engagement.

“The district’s effective leadership has built trust, based in respect of the system’s history, recognition of the community’s rich expertise and generosity, and its focus on a future of excellent preparation for a quickly changing society,” the report said. “The pride in saying, “my school,” was palpable. Throughout the remote interviews, stakeholders gleefully and proudly reminded team members of the upgraded facilities through their testimonies. Investing in the future can take many forms. The leadership of Florence School District 1 has communicated faith in the future of the schools, learners, and their families through investments in infrastructures and identity.”

More than 200 people were interviewed as part of the review, including classified and certified staff, parents, community partners, board members and students. Nathan Neighbors, Youth Pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church and a former Florence 1 student, was one of the community members interviewed.

“Since entering Kindergarten at Greenwood Elementary in 1981, I’ve never been prouder of Florence 1,” Neighbors said. “I’ve seen more progress and unity in our school district in the last four years than the last 40 years. My wife and I are so grateful our sons get to experience the very best public education in South Carolina. Thank you, Dr. O’Malley and Florence 1!”

Superintendent Richard O’Malley said that he was pleased with the results from Cognia.

“We have worked incredibly hard the last few years streamlining procedures, getting buy-in for our new vision and increasing opportunities for students,” O’Malley said. “To have our processes validated by Cognia, and for them to specifically recognize the pride that our stakeholders have in our district, shows that our hard work is paying off. These results also provide us with guidance on our continuous improvement journey and reinforce our dedication to our Students First approach.”