Unicoi school board votes 5-1 to stop using accreditation process

Brad Hicks • Apr 13, 2012 at 6:24 AM

ERWIN — With a growing list of requirements that have been added to principal responsibilities, officials in the Unicoi County School District have discussed items that school principals are currently doing that could be ceased.

On Thursday, the Unicoi County Board of Education voted to put an end to one of these processes.

By a 5-1 vote, the board voted to stop using the AdvancED/SACS accreditation process for all schools within the district. Board member Bo Shadden cast the dissenting vote.

According to its website, AdvancED is an accreditation institute that serves more than 30,000 public and private schools across the U.S. and in more than 70 countries that educate more than 16 million students.

Unicoi County Director of Schools Denise Brown said Dr. Mickey Hatcher, the school district’s director of federal programs, who oversees the process, has also recommended the school system stop using the AdvancED/SACS process. She also said the district’s principals feel other improvement processes being utilized by the school system are more effective.

“I am recommending we continue with our improvement efforts through the state’s schoolimprovement process, and that will include the recently approved Tennessee waiver,” Brown said.

Brown also gave several reasons behind this recommendation. First, she said, AdvancED accreditation is based on the assessment of standards and indicators, student performance and the perceptions of teachers, parents and students. This is already done through the Tennessee School improvement Process, Brown said.

AdvancED also offers six status levels, which ranging from excellence to probation. Districts and schools seeking to attain the two highest status levels — excellence and distinction — must apply and must complete a yearly accreditation progress report.

“Which, with all our principals have to do now, is something that’s just almost impossible,” Brown said.

Brown said school system officials also contacted regional and out-of-state universities to see if AdvancED accreditation plays a role in student admissions and were advised that it does not. Brown said this is based more on ACT or SAT scores.

“(The universities) stated that they consider whether or not it is a public school, their past experiences with the school or school reputation, and most importantly the accomplishments of the individual that is applying,” Brown said.

Brown said school officials were also advised AdvancED accreditation plays no role in the acceptance of credit schools located both in the state and out-of-state. She also said the AdvancED Office is no longer located in the Tennessee Department of Education, and its process and the state’s improvement processes are now separate.

Brown said school officials see “no benefit” in continuing the AdvancED accreditation process.

“With the new waiver through the Tennessee Department of Education, with the Tennessee Diploma Project, with the school improvement plans, we’re going above and beyond what is required of this, and this comes as a whole-hearted recommendation from me, from our principals and our supervisors,” she said.

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