A 17-member team of outside evaluators ended a three-day visit, including stops at 20 schools, by announcing its verdict Wednesday to a special meeting of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board: The school system deserves to retain its accreditation for five more years.

“I’m sure there’s a number of you who wanted me to just get to the point as quickly as I could,” said the team leader with AdvancED, George Griffin, an educational consultant based in North Carolina.

The team’s renewal recommendation will now be given to AdvancED’s national board for ratification. The board meets in June.

The AdvancED external review team, however, left Baton Rouge school leaders with a long to-do list of areas to improve, saying the list needs to be addressed in the next two years.

The action items included: making sure students have “equitable opportunities” to learn topics that will help them succeed as adults; making sure that what earns an A at one school is aligned with an A at another school; that School Board members define and stick to clear roles and ethical standards; communicate better to allow “effective and equal representation” of all stakeholder in decisions made; and plan annually and strategically to address inequities in everything from where teachers are placed to who gets up-to-date instructional technology.

It’s a longer work list than in 2009 when AdvancED first accredited East Baton Rouge Parish schools. That review team tasked the school system with conducting a media promotional campaign, which it did, to correct what reviewers saw as a disconnect between the quality of the schools and how people perceived them.

Wednesday’s meeting was the culmination of a months-long process that required not only the school district, but all of the 80-plus schools in the district to submit reports.

The 17-member AdvancED team was split between educators from Louisiana and educators from other states. The team visited a cross-section of schools in the parish, and more than 200 classrooms, as well as interviewed School Board members, principals, parents and community leaders — 379 people in all.

East Baton Rouge Parish schools have standards in five areas to meet: purpose and direction; governance and leadership; teaching and assessing for learning; resources and support systems; and using results for continuous improvement.

Griffin said the AdvancED’s review process has changed. AdvancED in 2009 had seven standards, rather five. The teams also used new scoring systems that use a four-point scale.

For the classroom visits, the team rated seven different areas, ranging from whether the evaluators saw evidence of active learning to whether teachers demonstrated high expectations. The evaluators compared these results to the average for other schools that AdvancED accredits. East Baton Rouge Parish classrooms were slightly better than other AdvancED schools on average, except in maintaining a “well-managed learning environment.”

But the district did not fare as well in another measure called Index of Education Quality. East Baton Rouge Parish lagged behind the average for other AdvancED schools overall as well as in teaching and Learning impact, leadership capacity and resource utilization. Leadership was the area most lacking.

Griffin emphasized that in all of the areas, East Baton Rouge is within a standard deviation of the norm, so close to the average, but said that these areas need attention, especially leadership.

Griffin’s team offered some compliments. He said the school system’s written report was well done and showed a lot of candor and reflection. He said classroom activities were challenging but attainable. He also said students were better behaved than he expected.

“I give your students a pat on the back, very respectful,” Griffin said.

Twenty-two public school districts and two Catholic school systems in Louisiana are accredited by AdvancED, a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization that accredits primary and secondary schools throughout the United States as well as internationally.