Bridgetown Regional High School has become the first school in the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board to be awarded accreditation through the Nova Scotia School Accreditation Program. The distinction concludes five years of work by the school to set higher standards, increase student achievement and improve the school’s overall performance. “I want to congratulate the staff, students and school advisory council members who put so much effort into a school-improvement strategy that is clearly increasing student achievement,” Education Minister Karen Casey said today, March 28, at a ceremony honouring the school. Bridgetown was one of eight schools selected in 2002 to pilot the Nova Scotia Accreditation Program, a provincewide school-improvement process identified as a priority in Learning For Life II, the province’s multi-year plan for education. There are now 229 schools working on school-accreditation plans. The Nova Scotia School Accreditation Program helps ensure every public school in the province is continually improving, offering quality programs and meeting the academic needs of all students. Bridgetown Regional High focused its efforts on improving student achievement in a variety of subject areas, while enhancing the learning environment for its students and staff. “This process has taught us that focused attention on areas of improvement, and tracking that progress through data collection, has helped make Bridgetown Regional High an even better school,” said principal Steve Walker. The school demonstrated to an external review team that it had successfully met its goal of significantly increasing the number of students achieving a final mark of 60 per cent or more in 13 of 16 course disciplines. As an example, achievement in Grade 8 mathematics increased from 67 per cent of students achieving 60 per cent or more to 84 per cent between 2002-03 and 2005-06. The school also created a safer learning environment for its students, surpassing its objective of reducing bullying, acts of violence and vandalism by 20 per cent. Since 2003-04, the school has reduced defiant behaviour toward teachers by 70 per cent and decreased the incidences of disruptive classroom behaviour by 80 per cent. The Nova Scotia School Accreditation Program requires schools meet a standard of excellence based on goals that are specific and strategic, measurable, attainable, results-based and timely (SMART). Under the program, schools establish internal review teams to collect and evaluate data to identify both strengths and areas needing improvement. Based on those areas needing improvement, schools develop goals and a five-year school-improvement plan. The plan is examined by an external review team of independent educators and administrators who visit each school before approving it. Schools implement their improvement plan, and provide annual updates to school advisory councils. An accreditation team returns to the school after four years to assess progress. Schools receive accreditation after they show progress toward the goals in their improvement plans.