Thursday, September 27, 2007

CCSD Accreditation

Said Benjamin Price in his article concerning accreditation of the Clarke County School District (CCSD) by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS):

“The SACS committee is a non-governmental accreditation body that accredits public and private high schools and colleges in 11 southern states. While each of Clarke County's schools has received individual accreditation in the past, this is the first year the school district has taken the extra step of districtwide accreditation.

If approved in December, all of Clarke County's public schools will be automatically re-accredited by SACS for the next five years.”

I do not really enjoy raining on the CCSD's parade and I actually pay it a compliment from time to time, but some points come immediately to mind about this “districtwide” accreditation.

The first is that districtwide accreditation appears to be in lieu of the accreditation of individuals schools, not in addition to it (though perhaps I am misreading the article - but if so, districtwide accreditation would serve no purpose).

The second is that, as noted above, SACS accreditation is nothing new. A check of the web pages for each of the CCSD’s schools reveals that all thirteen elementary schools claim current accreditation by both the SACS and the Georgia Accrediting Commission (GAC), three of five middle schools or programs claim SACS accreditation, with none mentioning GAC, and three of four high schools or programs stating that they are accredited by SACS, of which two also claim “Georgia” accreditation.

In the Guided Self Study (see page 8 of the PDF), required for SACS accreditation, the CCSD says: “For decades, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) has accredited individual schools in Clarke County, and all schools in Clarke County have been accredited since the school district began its association with SACS.”

Just what this means is open to interpretation. Are all of the CCSD’s schools currently accredited? If that is the case, why do not their respective web sites so indicate? Or does the statement mean that all of the CCSD’s schools have been accredited at some point in the past? Or does it means something else?

Regardless, why the change from accrediting individual schools to a districtwide accreditation? The answer may be entirely innocuous – something along the lines of an accreditation of the district as a whole being more efficient and easier to accomplish that accrediting each school separately. On the other hand, given the fact that the CCSD’s middle and high schools have consistently underperformed with regard to test scores, AYP measurements, graduation rates, etc., perhaps the thought was to not risk individual schools failing the accreditation process. After all, a time-honored bureaucratic tactic, when faced with embarrassing statistics, is to simply change the manner in which the numbers are computed. Yes, that is a cynical approach to take, but the CCSD has earned some cynicism.

The third point is, quite frankly, so what? As noted above, the majority of the CCSD’s schools have been accredited for years - and have been consistently under-performing for just as long. So, how will re-accreditation, either as individual schools or as a district, improve students' academic performance?

I have reviewed the CCSD’s news release and read through the SACS Exit Report and the CCSD Guided Self Study to which it links. The specific things that determine if a school system is actually doing what a school system should are discussed in only the vaguest of terms. You know, those mundane, bothersome things like test scores, graduation rates, etc. Instead, there is page after page of administrative jargon and lists of who was on this or that committee, all sprinkled with politically correct buzzwords and flowcharts.

From my time at Aderhold Hall, I can say from personal experience that the educational establishment consistently emphasizes administrative form over academic performance; I wound not be the least bit surprised if that were the case here.

For what it is worth, see this article on how the educational system in Scotland keeps claiming success, despite all evidence to the contrary. Sound familiar?

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well said. It's a very low bar to begin with, and the move to district wide accreditation may be an attempt to set the bar even lower.

It occurs to me now that he manner in which Democrats defend public schools is somewhat like the manner in which Republicans defend our occupation of Iraq. Think about that my Democratic friends! Do facts, logic, and experience have any place in this debate?