Birmingham-- AdvancED is a private accrediting firm working with more than thirty thousand schools worldwide. A team from its Southern Association of Colleges and Schools division arrives in Birmingham today. They're checking whether Birmingham City Schools are fixing problems that led the agency to put the system on accreditation probation last summer. It got WBHM's education reporter Dan Carsen thinking about what these firms actually do, and whether they have as much power as it seems. He caught up with AdvancED president Mark Elgart and asked him how his agencies decide which districts get accredited ... and which don't:
Subject and time pegs for the extended interview are below:
0:00 -- An overview of how accreditation works at different levels, in different regions, and in different types of schools.
3:44 -- I ask Elgart about state education agencies handling accreditation themselves. He says 20 states still do, but it's a different type of process...
5:00 -- AdvancED used to have 13 standards for evaluating schools or systems; now they use five.
5:15 -- I ask how AdvancED finds experts qualified to so something so important.
6:30 -- Elgart says its a comprehensive, variegated process that lasts 18 months.
6:55 -- I ask about the frequency of pulling a school or system's accreditation.
7:55 -- Elgart says the most common reason for pulling accreditation is substandard teaching and learning.
8:12 -- I ask how those determinations are made.
9:52 -- I ask for some examples of pulled accreditation.
11:45 -- What are the ramifications of losing accreditation?
14:10 -- Real estate agents know all about it.
16:30 -- I ask whether high-stakes testing has taken some responsibility away from accrediting agencies.
17:50 -- Elgart talks state takeovers, principal removal.
19:38 -- Elgart says testing has increased AdvancED's responsibilities and accountability.
20:00 -- I ask how AdvancED is typically first contacted.
23:20 -- I ask about "volunteers."
22:45 -- Elgart says he'll soon be leading the biggest U.S. accreditation visit AdvancED has ever done.
23:33 -- I ask where AdvancED's budget comes from.
24:16 -- I ask how much money Elgart makes.
25:10 -- Has Alabama's year-old Educational Accountability and Intervention Act, (sometimes called the School Intervention Act), which spells out the reasons and lowers the bar for state takeovers, taken some responsibility from AdvancED's shoulders?
27:12 -- Questions about the SACS team coming to Birmingham City Schools today and tomorrow.
29:25 -- I ask whether Birmingham City Schools hiring consultants to deal with the accreditation team is helpful.
30:25 -- Could the recent snow-shortened, one-day review of Hoover City Schools be adequate?
31:25 -- I ask about getting those accreditation reports.
32:15 -- I ask Elgart if I've left anything out...
~ Dan Carsen, March 4, 2014
Dan's education reporting can be found here.