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Private Education ISSUES

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The more I become involved in the private school accreditation issue, the more fascinated I become.

Accreditation as I was led to believe, was originally conceived to be a tool to strengthen and to improve education by using the peer review process. However, it is now being used as a tool to:

Determine eligibility of institutions to receive financial assistance.
Assist in determining eligibility for schools seeking to enroll alien non-resident students through the US Department of Justice’s Office of Immigration and Naturalization Services.
Determine eligibility of postsecondary institutions involved in teacher education programs.
Determine length and quality of teaching experience for teachers seeking to transfer from private schools to public schools.
Determine credibility of students’ records when they transfer from private schools to public schools.
Determine eligibility of schools seeking charters in the National Honor Society.
Determine eligibility of schools seeking to participate in corporate/matching gift programs.
Provide parents with a “good housekeeping seal of approval”.
Provide leverage in civil rights or politically correct enforcement activities.
Determine eligibility for private schools to participate in high school activities association-related activities, e.g., band, athletics, forensics, etc.
Whatever its function or purpose, accreditation is assuming a more visible role as public policy makers seek to improve education. Whether the accrediting agency is regional, state, specialization-oriented (e.g., medical, legal, vocational, etc.) or private school administered, it is no longer simply a tool to measure quality of education. Instead a meaningful peer review system is gradually being transformed into a public policy “wedge”.

What does this mean to the National Council For Private School Accreditation (NCPSA), its member organizations, and other private school associations which accredit their own member schools? A couple of quick responses come to mind:

1. Private school accrediting associations (and the NCPSA) must make certain strong and educationally sound standards are in place, and that these standards are met, in order to stand up to public scrutiny.

2. Leaders representing private school associations currently not involved in accreditation (regional, state or private school-administered) should give serious consideration to becoming involved before they are “forced” to. If they became involved NOW, there will be minimal chance for “holy wars” occurring in which church-affiliated schools face off against the “state”.

Public policy developers, i.e., governors, legislators, national public policy organizations, state agencies, etc., need to encourage and to accept the development of private school accrediting associations as a cost-effective, non-controversial method of assuring that states’ interests are met, private schools retain their autonomy and raison d’etre, and the general public is well served.