Educational Standards & Quality

Unintendended Negative Consequences of School Accreditation Policy

Before I write about how our accrediting commission’s policies just stopped me from helping best serve a student (and a group of students), I should preface this blog article, with the fact that in general I think the Council on Occupational Education is a very good accrediting agency, and that most of their policies that have hurt our students, are not necessarily policies that they chose, but are likely policies dictated partially to them by the U.S. Department of Education, which in turn had things dictated to them from the U.S. Congress.  So, I don’t want this article to be misconstrued as an attack on our accrediting agency.

But on the other hand, if criticism is not shared, improvements are less likely to happen.  Currently Twin Rivers Adult School is a candidate for accreditation through the Council on Occupational Education (COE).  As candidates we are not supposed to make “Substantive Changes”, further before making any changes we are supposed to get it approved by COE (even if we weren’t candidates).   I recognize that this has been put into place such that Title IV Accrediting Agencies become de facto regulators.  And that this particular regulation has been put into place to attempt to stop dubious and bad post-secondary institutions from doing things too quickly, without oversight.

The problem is that we are a public school, and we already have oversight on many levels, and of most concern, the red tape that is there to slow us down is causing us to not be able to react as quickly as we need in the environment we exist within.  As an example, just this morning, we had a student whose native language is one other than English, and thus he could really use English as a Second Language (ESL) courses.  Further, he wants to learn the trade of Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC).

And while we already have a Vocational ESL classes, and an HVAC program as existing things we do, we are not allowed to combine these 2 together today for him, so he could have an ESL HVAC program.  (Which a lot of our other students need also).   We hope to get this approved sometime next year, but by the time that happens, there will be many students who were not served, even though we already had all the pieces in place to serve them, because having a different permutation was considered a “substantive change”.

Spreadsheet to generate Clock-Hour Chart for the Council on Occupational Education

Twin Rivers Adult School is currently a candidate for Accreditation from the Council on Occupational Education, and we need to turn in forms to them that show how many hours our programs are.  These are easy to accidentally make a mistake, so I created the COE Clock-Hour-Chart Generator spreadsheet to help out.   Any other schools going through the same accreditor are welcome to use it.

Chain of Needs for Student Success

As I have been sharing, the debate about school effectiveness and student success so often centers around standardized tests and the teachers who teach, yet we ignore the box that the teacher is placed in, and the future life of the student after leaving the school system.

To have true student success, deductive logic tells us, that there must be at least four critical components:

  1. Content is Relevant to Students’ Ultimate Needs and Goals
  2. Content is Taught at an Appropriate Time
  3. Teachers are Knowledgeable about the Content
  4. Teachers have Activities that are Efficient at Helping Students Learn

In our public system, the first 2 links of the chain is being defined by the standards, while the last links are clearly in the privy of the teacher.  Although, I will argue that often the best teachers are the bold ones who also bring in new content that is important to their students, beyond what standards currently define.  In either case, each of these 4 components must be at a sufficient level so that students truly succeed.  If any one of these links is not sufficiently well done, then there will not be success for the student, unless the student finds the components outside of traditional schooling.

We spend the majority of our resources on improving our teachers, but  the amount spent on improving the first two links of the chain within the realm of standards is minute in comparison.  There are of course major reform movements that have occurred, but I think evidence would bare out that most of these have been more about political popularity than research of need, and the resources used to create them and improve them were still small in comparison to the resources used to implement them.

So I am trying to start this research, and find others who recognize the need of improving our standards if we are to truly have student success, such that no link will be broken.

Those who can, Do. Those who can’t, Teach. Those who really suck, Rule the world.

I’ve always wondered about the adage “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” While any generality will be incorrect for certain people. (For example, I personally believe I’m one of those who can, given my background in private industry) But what about the majority of teachers? Is there any evidence to truly suggest that this concept that teachers are not as good as those who go into other industries or majors?

Unfortunately, I think I found some. I am going to enter a masters program this coming year, and so I have decided to take the GRE test (even though the masters programs I’m looking in to don’t require it, specifically I think it could boost my chances with Drexel. I’ll talk more soon about my speculation about why they don’t require it.)

The GRE is used for many schools to determine admission into various masters programs. And while there can be arguments made about how well (or how poorly) it measures ones potential of success, it still is a benchmark that is used, and I’m sure has some merit.

What I found interesting, is in the math (quantitative analysis) part of the test, about 2/3 of the general group that takes the test score better than Educational majors.

But, when it comes to managers, it is mostly worse. For those majoring in Management for private industry about 60% of others did better, for those majoring in School Administration, about 69% of others did better, and for public administration it sunk to having about 71% of others doing better… So maybe the Peter Principle has some merit also!!!

Although, to be fair teachers and administrators do fair better on the English (Verbal Reasoning) portion of the test. On this part only 55% of everyone else did better than Teachers. Although in this case about 60% did better than private industry managers, about 62% did better than school administrators, and only about 55% of others did better than our public administrators… So, I guess in this case, our public servants, like our former President Clinton, are cunning linguists. 🙂

Oh well. I hope that I score well on the test to show that not all teachers “can’t”, otherwise my next post will need to be refuting this post, and telling you why the GRE is not a good gauge of why someone can or can’t… 🙂

BTW, I’m interested in anyone’s feedback about other objective methods that either show our teachers and public servants are more or less capable.

P.S. – To be fair to the MBAs of the world, most of them don’t take the GRE, they take the GMAT, and you really can’t compare them together, so private industry managers may not be as bad as I list here.