Margaret Raymond Driscoll is a nine-year Melrose School Committee member who is passionate about excellent teaching and learning for all public school students, and considers it a privilege to collaborate with others who share that passion. You can also follow her on Twitter at @MargaretDrisc. Just to be clear - opinions expressed here do not represent those of the Melrose Public Schools, the Melrose School Committee, or the Massachusetts Association of School Business Officials - they are hers alone.

Friday, November 14, 2014

NEASC Accreditation - Is there still enough value to warrant the cost?

MASC Conference programmers offered a panel session featuring President/CEO of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges' (NEASC) Cameron Staples along with Commission on Public Secondary Schools' (CPSS) Director Janet Allison and Deputy Director George Edwards who spoke to the changes being undertaken to revise the accreditation process for their member schools. NEASC claims to accredit over 2000 schools and colleges and to be the oldest regional accrediting association.

They explained how, in the past, schools faced fewer mandates and regulations, and that meeting accreditation standards was a way for communities to reflect on their educational services and show improvement and accountability to students, communities, and colleges. In the current environment of significant regulation, NEASC is engaging in a comprehensive review through a peer review process. Services are changing, like providing a showcase of a model school program, development of on-line/web-based tool, and reduction of visiting teams to reduce costs.

Some questions from the audience: 1. With all state and federal mandates and assessment tools as well as teachers/administrators with quality evaluative skills, why do we need another (outside) accountability organization?; 2. Average member annual expense is $3800+/yr. dues and $20,000+ for the study – is this money well spent by districts (especially those that are small in size)?; 3. Colleges wouldn’t reject a student because a high school hadn’t been through the accreditation process and the diploma would be worth no less, so what is the real benefit to students?

Session handout of NEASC standards is here: https://cpss.neasc.org/downloads/2011_Standards/2011_Standards.pdf)

Take-aways for Melrose: what does NEASC mean for our students and our district, and are the dues and/or the self-study worthwhile investments of funds and teacher time out of the classroom? What can we learn from our colleagues in neighboring districts