States move away from accreditation

States move away from accreditation

(Colo.) As lawmakers take a stronger role in defining school success, more and more legislatures and state educational agencies are also trending away from setting certification goals around operations and programs as a means of communicating competence to the public, according to new research.

While all 50 states impose some system of accountability on schools, only 26 still maintain a formal accreditation program –six states have done away with the accreditation process altogether over the past 10 years, the Education Commission of States reported this week.

At least 11 states have merged the accreditation process into the larger accountability system including Colorado, Missouri, Texas and Virginia.

The commission, a nonpartisan think tank based in Denver, provides a state by state analysis of accreditation programs and, for those that still conduct the review, what agency oversees the evaluation.

It is perhaps not surprising that state legislatures are more interested in putting performance goals on schools that allow for a more passive checklist approach. Indeed, perhaps the biggest education issue being fought nationally these days is whether or how to bring the accountability measures down from the districts and school levels to the classroom teachers themselves.

For purposes of the survey, the Education Commission defined accreditation systems as one that certifies that schools meet specific operations, programs and sometimes performance standards.

Such systems, the commission said, tend to include input such as student-teacher ratios and physical classroom size, and typically are focused on individual schools, although some states accredit districts.

Public school accreditation in the U.S. is usually developed and overseen by state boards of education.

Accountability systems, on the other hand, include any number of measures but most often rely on academic standards, assessments, rewards and sanctions, the commission said. Most state accountability systems are aimed at both schools and districts and heavily influenced or outright constructed by the legislative process.

Some highlights:

  • In Alaska, Kansas, and South Carolina, accreditation status is one of the performance measures included on school report cards.
  • In Mississippi, Missouri and Virginia, performance measures roll up to an overall rating used to determine a school or district’s accreditation status.
  • Six states, including Michigan and Utah, “outsource” their accreditation process to a regional or national accrediting organization.
  • Six states have discontinued the use of state accreditation processes since 1998: Alabama, Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, Rhode Island and Washington.
  • Six states – Alaska, Connecticut, Idaho, Michigan, North Dakota and Utah – use regional or national accrediting agencies, such as the New England Association of Colleges and Schools.
  • A few states, including South Carolina and New Mexico, allow schools and districts to choose between the state’s accreditation system and an external accrediting process. more