SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

January 30, 2014

Our view: Time to question school accreditors

Our local schools are under ever-increasing mandates and scrutiny, imposed upon them by both state and federal governments. In recent years, the day-to-day work of teachers and administrators has become thickly infused with strict guidelines that, in theory anyway, are supposed to bring a uniform quality to public education. Educators spend enormous amounts of time demonstrating that they are meeting these standards.

It’s spurred an interesting phenomenon among a number of New England schools. They are beginning to question the value of “accreditation,” a designation awarded by a nonprofit organization known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges Inc., or NEASC for short.

We think that educators on the front line are wise to criticize the value of being a dues-paying member of NEASC, particularly given the myriad of state standards and mandated costs already imposed on local schools.

Pentucket Regional School District is the latest to join this growing chorus. Pentucket’s accreditation was recently extended by NEASC. However, Superintendent Jeffrey Mulqueen questioned whether Pentucket’s involvement is worth it, given the enormous amount of time and money the school is forced to dedicate to NEASC’s investigators, and the resulting value and relevance of what NEASC delivers.

He’s not alone. Last spring, several superintendents representing Massachusetts public schools sent a highly detailed letter to NEASC, expressing similar concerns. Though couched in thoughtful language, the letter’s critical punch was made clear in the bullet points that the superintendents observed: that NEASC’s standards are inflexible; it imposes a dual standard that allows private schools to exhibit creativity and leeway, while punishing public schools that do the same; it is costly in terms of both staff time and money; it pays “little attention to criticism and input” from its member schools; and its process is no longer relevant to the standards that the state now mandates.

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