SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

February 22, 2014

Letter: Association sets accreditation improvement process in motion

To the editor:

Parents have always been concerned about the quality of the public schools and rightfully so. Education is a very challenging undertaking. We entrust it to well-trained and highly motivated teachers. However, they are operating within an increasingly complex and difficult environment. Changes in curriculum, assessments and evaluation systems have impacted the ways in which public schools and educators are judged and assessed. In this environment, how does one improve the performance of an entire school community and establish processes to support sustained high performance?

NEASC accreditation offers a valuable solution to that challenge. It provides a time-tested process that combines educator self-reflection with peer review at every level during a self-study and an on-site visit conducted by educational peers from other public school systems. Every teacher is involved in frank conversations about strengths, needs and areas that require improvement. NEASC reviewers talk to teachers, administrators, students and parents, examine student work provided by the school, and also survey all parents on their assessment of the strengths and needs of their students’ school. We provide a multi-layered approach that offers a professional, reflective and thorough school review.

Before enactment of the federal “No Child Left Behind” law and recent state accountability laws, there was no significant government role in evaluating school quality. NEASC was the only educational association designed and dedicated to the purposes of quality assurance and continuous school improvement. However, times have changed. We are aware of the increasing pressures that government accountability demands are placing on our member schools. Responses to a recent membership survey found that our schools are highly appreciative of the value of accreditation but also find it increasingly challenging to address the requirements imposed by government accountability and NEASC accreditation simultaneously. We have heard our members and agree that NEASC must make our accreditation process complementary to and more closely aligned with government accountability requirements.

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