Thursday, February 28, 2008

Public School Accreditation Follies

Here I go again, citing statistics from the Georgia Department of Education concerning per pupil expenditures, graduation rates, and AYP progress. The context this time is the potential revocation of the Clayton County School District’s SACS accreditation. This story keeps getting bigger and bigger; as the Governor, the General Assembly, and the Secretary of State have all become involved.

But what would losing accreditation mean? I realize that it may cost some students their eligibility for HOPE scholarships and such (through no fault of their own - which would really suck), but does a loss of accreditation mean anything objective insofar as the quality of instruction or academic performance of a school district are concerned. I maintain that it does not.

The reason I can make this claim is quite simple, as the following numbers will reveal:

State of Georgia
FY 2007 per pupil expenditure $8428.05
2006-2007 graduation rate 72.3%
2007 AYP 82.2%

Clayton County School District
FY 2007 per pupil expenditure $7453.37 (11.56% below state average)
2006-2007 graduation rate 71.8% (0.07% (below state average)
2007 AYP 67.8% (17.52% below state average)

Clarke County School District
FY 2007 per pupil expenditure $10,746.94 (27.51% above state average)
2006-2007 graduation rate 58.4% (19.23% below state average)
2007 AYP 57.9% (29.56% below state average)

Thus, the Clayton County School District, which outperforms its Classic City counterpart by a substantial margin and at considerably less cost, may lose its accreditation due entirely to non-academic misteps, while the chronically underperforming Clarke County School District remains in good standing.*

Can someone tell me just what in Hades is wrong with this picture? Such a distorted situation merely brings to mind my earlier comments as to what a meaningless concept public school accreditation really is. I fully understand that accreditation has no demonstrable relation to the academic performance of a given school district’s students – and that is precisely my point.

*You may have heard talk of a Cedar Shoals High School parent filing a formal protest with SACS, but that concerns a specific personnel matter and has nothing to do with student achievement. I know nothing about the specific issue other than what media has told me. For those interested, see here and here.

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