Scott David Gray (email@example.com)
Sat, 17 Jul 1999 00:07:37 -0400
Accreditation is is only valuable insofar as one wants the respect of the
accrediting organization. If the accrediting organization's criterion are NOT
ones that a given school would be proud to declare itself as adhering to, then
it doesn't make sense to seek accreditation from that organization.
This year, The Sudbury Valley School (SVS) will be examining the question of
whether or not it is proud to be accredited by the New England Association of
Schools and Colleges (NEASC). SVS will be consider whether the NEASC
accreditation is something that is valuable enough to justify the cost -- tens
of thousands of dollars in staff time and other expenses.
At one time, the NEASC accreditation was valuable to Sudbury Valley. SVS
sought, and received, NEASC accreditation for decades. The accreditation, at
one time was given to schools that were run in a professional manner, and did
what they claimed to do -- providing a place where children were well educated.
At the same time, Sudbury Valley was alone in the world, and didn't have
hundreds of alumni or a proven track record. Seeking NEASC made perfect sense
-- the accreditation only declared that SVS was serious about what it did, and
such a declaration might ease the fears which many parents had about a "new"
kind of school.
The situation is different now. The school is more secure -- and may not suffer
if it relies on its long history, the accreditation of the town, or the
recognition of other schools and educators. At the same time, the NEASC has
drifted away from its original mission -- the NEASC sees itself more and more as
an organization for people who share the same specific vision of education -- a
club for schools which require students to engage in formal instruction in
various subjects specific subjects.
Given this situation, I would not be surprised if the school chooses not to
renew its association with the NEASC in five years. This doesn't mean that the
school won't decide to seek formal recognition from a different sort of body.
Accreditation is only a good business move, if it doesn't compromise the
organization in an uncomfortable way, and the accreditation has some meaning
that would actually encourage prospective clients.
Personally, I worry that the costs of NEASC accreditation have compromised
Sudbury Valley -- costing both money and morale. Likewise, I am not convinced
that we actually GAIN any students from NEASC accreditation at this point. But
I will reserve final judgment until after having heard more discussion (the
Board of Trustees will be discussing this topic, and there no doubt will be
several papers printed in the newsletter). I am especially interested in
hearing Mimsy's opinion -- as her work as Registrar puts her in the best
position to evaluate what convinces parents to let their children enroll.
Joe Jackson wrote:
> You can't escape the fact that schools are fundamentally businesses, and if
> you don't make good business decisions, the school will probably fail.
> Running a school painted as a hippy dippy renegade, highly alternative,
> experimental program is mighty sexy, but you can't make much of a difference
> in this world when you're on your back with your feet in the air. I think
> some people's commitment to this whole disenstablishmentarianism vibe is why
> so few Sudbury schools are making it.
> Accreditation doesn't come only from the government - the regional
> accrediting agencies accredit a wide variety of institutions (granted none
> of them probably resemble a Sudbury school). A religious school often
> states it is "accredited" by its sponsoring church.
> I think many schools might see accreditation as a good business move, and if
> it doesn't affect how the school operates, than it's silly not to do it just
> 'cause schools you hate do it.
> That's like saying you won't play golf because you hate the golfer image.
> - Joe Jackson, firstname.lastname@example.org
> Visit Fairhaven School's website at
> >> In many minds, the question of whether or not to seek formal
> >> accreditation appears to be the trade-of between the ability
> >> to draw enrollment from the "larger" community vs
> >> restricting one's "market" to those who buy into the
> >> "alternative" philosophy. An ability to pay the bills goes
> >> hand in hand with maintaining a functional and effective
> >> presence.
> >> At Sudbury Valley the debate continues. Fortunately, we
> >> have thus far been able to deal with the accreditation body
> >> WITHOUT "buying in" to their scheme. But clearly, we have
> >> wanted to be able to say to parents (those who typically pay
> >> enrollment fees), that even though we have a different take
> >> on schooling and learning, we are legitimate. I suspect
> >> every "alternative" has a similar view.
> >(being devil's advocate here...)
> >OK. So, let's say I'm running for a major public office. I can run as a
> >Republican, Democrat, Independent, or something else. Let's say that,
> >despite my fundamental irreconcilable differences with both major parties,
> >decide to run as a Republican because it gives me an aura of respectability
> >and - especially - it allows me to raise funds with much greater success.
> >But I state to anyone who asks the right questions that I really don't
> >with the major premises of the Republicans, but, since I am a serious
> >candidate, I needed to go with the label in order not to turn off funding
> >Note that key among people to whom I don't volunteer my true political
> >stands are 1) Republicans, especially party officials, and 2) potential
> >donors. I won't exactly lie, I'll just spare them the parts they don't want
> >to hear anyway.
> >Hmmm. This seems, I don't know, kinda shady to me.
> >Why is accreditation any different?
> >> Joseph Moore
-- Scott David Gray
This archive was generated by hypermail 2.0b3 on Thu Dec 23 1999 - 09:01:56 EST