Tuesday, June 10, 2008

AccreditateGate

WARNING!! Explicit wonkiness and bloviation to follow. Please proceed with caution, or fix yourself a drink and a sandwich now.

First of all, my cursory investigation of the accreditation of RSD schools (charter and regular) has not gone very deep, but I have found out some information. Some of it is common sensical, some of it leads to even more questions.

According to the few responses I have recieved and based on prior knowledge from an old Coastal Georgia accreditation situation, applying for accreditation from a regional accrediting organization (such as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools [SACS]) is a fairly lenthy and expensive process. Current timelines indicate that an application can take up to 5 years to complete, and that comes after 3 years of data collection at the applicant school or district.

That makes some sense. As I understand it, the district or the school is responsible for proving to the accreditor that they should be accredited. It can take some time to prove that you adhere to the appropriate standards to recieve the stamp of approval.

But 8 years is one hell of a long time, especially if the RSD started operating as a blank slate in 2006. That means it could take until 2009 for the very first RSD schools to start applying and the first RSD schools won't recieve accreditation until 2014 at the earliest.

I have also learned that the individuals most affected by a school or district's accreditation are high school seniors applying to colleges. If you are going to a college or university that is regionally accredited, your admission is aided if you went to a high school that also had regional accreditation. If your high school was not regionally accredited, you may face additional hurdles when attempting to go to college. For the record, most of the recognizable colleges and universities have regional accreditation.

In response to this, many high schools require the GEE to graduate. This is a standardized exam that aids a passing student in proving to a regionally accredited university that the student's education has met certain standards necessary for admission.

Another way accreditation affects students is when it comes to transfer credits. This is actually a situation that Leigh wrote about that started this whole conversation. Many accredited schools will not accept transfer credits from non-accredited schools. This again becomes problematic for students as they may have to repeat classes based on what schools they end up attending in different years. I can also forsee this being a problem for students who attend RSD middle schools who then attempt to attend OPSB high schools that maintain accreditation. Let that roll around for a minute.

I have no current evidence that this has happened, but I wonder how many parents have been or will be told their children can't attend Lusher, O.P. Walker, Ben Franklin or Warren Easton not based on grades or LEAP scores, but because their children didn't attend an accredited middle school. (I also wonder how long it will take voucher-supporters to begin using this argument to further their cause.)

Questions Raised

1. Did all RSD schools and charters start with a blank slate as far as accreditation is concerned? Meaning - did the RSD changeover, which fired so many teachers, gutted the collective bargaining of UTNO and opened the door for so many new charter schools also remove any school's pre-storm accreditation?

2. If the above is discovered to be true, did pre-existing accreditation determine which schools stayed in OPSB and which became RSD?

3. If the above is discovered to be true, will RSD charters and RSD non-charters now all have to apply for accreditation based on the same timeline? Will the charters get to apply for accreditation independently and the RSD non-charters have to apply as a district?

4. If the RSD was created before the storms of 2005 to help turn around failing schools, wouldn't a part of the turnaround be based on applying for and recieving regional accreditation? If that is true, wouldn't one expect to see a plan, an accreditation point person or an accreditation committee working within the RSD to streamline and facilitate such an application?

5. Since the RSD took over schools in the 2006 - 2007 school year, wouldn't that mean that the schools that opened first will be able to apply for accreditation at the end of the 2008 - 2009 school year? Are those schools being prepped adequately for such an application?

6. Since so many RSD schools began year one in the 2007 - 2008 school year, were the data managers and administrators prepped on what specific data to begin collecting for the eventual accreditation application?

7. How did Lusher elementary completely take over Fortier HS and expand its scope as a school while maintaining accreditation? Did that school's special relationship with Tulane University (a SACS accredited university) aid this process in any way? What lessons can be learned from that to streamline other schools' application process?

Wow. Further down the rabbit hole we go. Special thanks to SAWB for the title.


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