Interested in finding out what exactly the Department of Education had failed to meet in order to maintain the high school accreditation in question, I went to the web site of the Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges.
As things stand, the accreditation standards are fairly broad and address themselves to 12 general but fundamental areas of functional and operational concern for a school system. These areas are:
– Philosophy, mission, beliefs and/or objectives
– Governance and leadership
– Organizational design and staff
– Educational programs
– Learning media services and technology
– Student services
– Student life and student activities
– Health and safety
– Assessment of student learning
This is how the standard for governance and leadership reads:
"The governance and administration work in partnership to ensure the integrity, effectiveness, and reputation of the organization. There is an atmosphere of mutual respect and purposeful effort on behalf of students and their learning. The administration of the organization provides a productive work environment, timely and open communication, and the leadership necessary to plan both day-to-day operations and the long-term future of the institution. The school is chartered, licensed, or authorized by a state, nation, or authority, which operates in the public interest."
At another part of the web site one can find the listing of indicators for each of the standards. The top 5 indicators for governance and leadership for public school districts, archdiocesan/diocesan offices, and other school organizations with central office staff read:
"The district and the programs it operates are approved for their function by the civil authority within whose jurisdiction they are located.
"The governance and central office administration act ethically, consistently, and fairly in all dealings with parents, students, staff, and the school community.
"The governance and central office administration work cooperatively to establish and maintain clearly formulated written policies and practices that are consistent with the district's philosophy, mission, beliefs and/or objectives. These policies and practices are regularly reviewed.
"The governance and central office administration maintain appropriate and constructive relations with parents, students, staff, the community, and with each other in the interest of serving the needs of the students.
"The governance and cental office administration comply with all applicable statutes and governmental regulations."
It would seem that taken together this extract outlines some very achievable if not required conditions for the management of a school system, accredited or not. And as the extract evidenced here indicates, the remainder of the standards are as necessary conditions as there could be for the day-to-day operation of schools. This begs the question then: Why would anyone want their child in a school system that could not meet these standards?
Here is an indicator for the standard of assessment of student learning:
"Student progress at all levels is regularly evaluated and accurately interpreted and reported in an understandable manner."
How about the standard for finances?
"The instruction program and supporting services are developed in accordance with suitable short-term and long-range financial plans."
And what about the area of health and safety?
"The school premises are maintained in a safe and healthy condition and meet local, state and national fire safety standards, including fire extinguishers, a satisfactory fire alarm system, and other safety devices."
On first inspection, it may seem that meeting the conditions of the indicators is an insurmountable task. But the published standards and measured indicators form an obvious road map for any administrator to follow to the destination of school system and accreditation.
And so, the existential question is: Why? Why couldn't such a clear and necessary road map be followed, not to mention staying the course to maintain the accreditation of the high schools of the Virgin Islands? Never mind that the standards and indicators point to a system not of excellence but of credible, sustainable education and care for the children in that school system. It couldn't have been easier if someone had done it for the school administrators!
Here's where you can find the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools accreditation standards.
Lloyd A. Davis
Fort Washington, Md.
Editor's note: Lloyd A. Davis was born and raised on St. Croix and is a graduate of St. Joseph's High School. He lives in Maryland and is a program control analyst with Unisys Federal Systems in its IRS Modernization Program.
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