Friday, December 28, 2012

Nancy Drew Jester Series Continues. The Case of Pretense of Accreditation in Georgia

Part 2 in the Nancy Drew Jester Mystery Series: The Case of Accreditation Gone Missing

Stay tuned for Monday's release, Nancy Meets the Hardy Boys of SACS County

http://whatsupwiththat.nancyjester.com/2012/12/28/process-versus-results-accreditation-by-sacs-advanced/

The following is Part 2 of a Series from Nancy Jester, our local school board member.  Keep up the good work, Nancy. 

Process Versus Results – Accreditation by SACS

I thought it would be useful to provide some historical context to the whole accreditation issue.   Five years ago, if you had asked me what accreditation means, I probably would have told you that it meant something about the quality of the education that kids received; that it judged in some way the results of how well children were educated.
It does not.
Accreditation by SACS/AdvancED is big on “process” and “continuous improvement.”  It does not rate how well schools perform their mission to educate children.  Given the recent graduation rates that were released nationally one must wonder about the nature and efficacy of accreditation “processes” and to whom the benefits of “continuous improvement” accrue.
Click here to read the November 26th AJC article showing Georgia ranked 48th out of 50 states in graduation rate.  For even more detail, you can read my November 5th blog.
You will note that we are not graduating even 50% of our African American students in four years of high school instruction, even with an opportunity to take 32 credits on a block schedule of the 24 required to graduate.  Yet, we are in the top ten for money spent on education.   It appears to me that our emphasis on process is quite expensive, but ineffective.  How can we have such poor aggregate graduation rate results and have so many accredited schools and districts in our state?  Shouldn’t we be focused on honestly assessing the results?
State law requires that I must have 9 hours of training annually.  The Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA) holds large conferences where board members can attend seminars to meet the training requirements.  Your tax dollars pay for board members to attend these conferences.
I recently attended a GSBA conference to get my required training hours.  (I’ll have to blog in the future about how much of the seminar seemed designed as an infomercial for products that GSBA or their vendors sell.  Also, the seminars are largely conducted by educational bureaucrats that tell elected officials how to treat the educational bureaucrats in their district.  But I digress …)
During my seminar, two executives from AdvancED spoke to the group.  I learned that the concept of “district accreditation” is relatively new.  This accreditation product was rolled out from 2004-08.  Many districts in the state do not seek district accreditation. Instead, they have only their schools – or only their high schools — accredited.   State law requires students to graduate from an accredited school to qualify for the HOPE scholarship.  There is NO requirement that a district be accredited.  For Georgia public schools the law permits accreditation by either SACS or the Georgia Accrediting Commission (GAC).  State law also provides methods for homeschoolers to qualify for HOPE scholarships.
During the Q&A at the GSBA conference, I asked AdvancED officials questions about how student achievement should factor into accreditation.  (I recorded this exchange and I’ll try to put it up on my website.)  I noted that our state does not compare well in the recently released graduation statistics.  I further asked:
If processes are used effectively, but achievement results are not improved, what does that say about accreditation?  What is it we’re accrediting?  If it doesn’t correlate strongly with, or have a causal relationship actually, to results for children in achievement then it is a …  the whole process seems to dichotomize there and I’m concerned about that.  Are we focused on process or are we focused on results?”
The response from the AdvancEd official was:
“As far as results … it is a process.  Going through this process, the school or district will go through and look at what is happening.  Accreditation is not based solely on student results.” 
So, there you have it.  And you pay for this process with your tax dollars and cede power over your property values to a concept administered by an unaccountable group, made up of educational bureaucrats.  In the end, the process does not guarantee, judge or rank the quality or results of the education provided to students in your school or district.
Our graduates – our frighteningly few graduates – cannot take “process” to the bank.
Additional reading on this subject:  http://www.nccivitas.org/2011/to-accredit-or-not-to-accredit/
–Stay tuned for more of my thoughts, including: the pronoun police, the circle of trust and solutions.