Riverview Rural High School was honoured today, Sept. 16, as Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board’s first provincially accredited school under Nova Scotia’s new school improvement program. The accreditation designation culminates five years of work by the Sydney-area high school to set higher standards, increase student achievement and improve the school’s overall performance. “I want to congratulate the staff, students, the school advisory council and the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board for their commitment to making this excellent school even better,” Education Minister Karen Casey said at a ceremony honouring the school. Riverview was among the first schools selected in 2003 to pilot the Nova Scotia School Accreditation Program, a school-improvement process identified as a priority in Learning For Life II, the province’s multi-year plan for education. There are now 308 schools working on school-accreditation plans. Riverview High is the sixth school in the province to be presented with its accreditation plaque. “The Nova Scotia School Accreditation Program ensures that every school is continually improving, offering quality programs and meeting the academic needs of all students,” said Ms. Casey. Riverview focused its efforts on improving student writing skills, encouraging teachers to implement more teaching strategies to engage students, improving morale and communication among staff. The school showed progress in raising student achievement for its 958 students. “The accreditation program has been a very positive experience for our school. It helped us create a professional learning community, with the end result being increased student success and achievement,” said principal Betty Crosby. The school demonstrated to an external review team that it had improved student writing achievement by increasing the amount of writing. The quality of student writing rose by almost 36 per cent over a three year period. Surveys showed that the morale of its 52 staff members increased by more than 20 per cent and that every teacher had successfully adopted new teaching strategies. The Nova Scotia School Accreditation Program requires every school 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 strengths and areas needing improvement. Based on these areas, schools develop goals and work toward meeting them through 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 the 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 improvement-plan goals.