SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

January 30, 2014

Our view: Time to question school accreditors

(Continued)

Indeed, NEASC’s drain on local finances has been mentioned more than a few times by local school officials. Local schools can expect to pay annual dues of about $13,500, plus substantial additional fees, as well as lodging, food and travel expenses when NEASC dispatches a team to a school district during its certification process.

NEASC itself is an expensive organization to fund. The nonprofit’s top-nine paid employees received compensation packages ranging from a low of $153,000 to a high of nearly $300,000, according to 2012 filings with the IRS.

The organization is the oldest of its type in the nation, founded in the 1850s in an era when educational standards were broadly inconsistent. It was designed to bring school systems to a uniform level of quality by closely examining its member schools and guiding them toward the best educational practices. It awarded those that “passed the test” with accreditation.

But the need for NEASC standards is largely gone, particularly in Massachusetts, where the state’s department of education holds such heavy sway over the management of schools. Educators are already being held tightly to state standards, and so it should be no surprise that they are beginning to see NEASC as an unnecessary burden.

A few years ago, such a movement would have been impossible to imagine. NEASC’s accreditation standards held enormous sway over educators and the public. The threat of losing accreditation was often used as a blunt cudgel to scare taxpayers into doing whatever it may be that NEASC suggested.

Today, the threat of losing accreditation may still hold some sway, but superintendents have made a strong argument demonstrating NEASC’s weaknesses. We think that as local schools are challenged to meet ever-restrictive standards, one master is enough.

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