ERIC Number: ED493597
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2004
Accountability and Independence for Schools: Towards a Higher Standard
Bassett, Patrick F.
National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) (NJ)
For a long time, independent schools have relied primarily upon peer-review accreditation for the purpose of accountability. Akin to the process used by colleges and universities, libraries and hospitals, school accreditation via a reputable accrediting organization is thorough, rigorous, and professional. It is rooted in two underlying principles: (1) offering full disclosure (what a school believes--its mission--and how it operates in congruence with those beliefs), and (2) meeting high standards (how schools should function and what students should learn). Schools that belong to the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), for example, undertake a periodic accreditation review that involves a year-long self-study and a several-day school visit by a team of professionals. The process is overseen by accrediting bodies in the various states and regions, all of which belong to the NAIS Commission on Accreditation, a national organization that sets universal criteria, models core standards, and periodically reviews the process of each of the accrediting bodies, in effect accrediting the accreditors. For as long as anyone can remember, this accreditation process was seen as "a higher standard"--that is, a standard that measures a broad array of important criteria for high-quality education--and, therefore, perfectly appropriate to assure the government and the public of the quality of independent institutions. An increasing number of critics of independent schools claim that independent schools enjoy freedom without public accountability, especially since the schools are not even required to meet the same standards of student testing and teacher certification of public schools. The pressure for measurable accountability is clearly increasing. The author argues that given the choice the independent school world still has, self-regulation is preferable to government regulation, since the latter almost always devolves into overregulation that becomes bureaucratically stifling, sometimes to the point of worsening the very services the regulation is meant to sustain. He believes it is better for independent schools to write rules of accountability now rather than have the government do so later on. The good news for independent schools? In the arena of school accountability for student learning, independent schools have a means and a metric by which to forestall regulation by adopting accountability measures of their own design within the existing accreditation process. These measures demonstrate accountability without compromising the very freedoms that make independent schools great.
Descriptors: National Organizations, Private Schools, Accountability, Accreditation (Institutions), Teacher Certification, Educational Testing, State Regulation, Academic Standards
National Association of Independent Schools. 1620 L Street NW Suite 1100, Washington, DC 20036-5695. Tel: 202-973-9700; Fax: 202-973-9790; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Web site: http://www.nais.org
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: National Association of Independent Schools, Washington, DC.