Leland and Gray Partners with Vermont High School for Decennial Evaluation

September 2, 2013

Contact: Dorinne Dorfman, Principal

ddorfman@lelandandgray.org

802.365.7355

The Leland and Gray School Board has approved the recommendation of school administration to partner with other schools in creating a new evaluation system to take place during the 2014-15 school year. After the review of evidence and careful deliberation, the School Board also approved the administration’s request to withdraw Leland and Gray’s membership from the New England Association of Secondary Schools and Colleges (NEASC).

While no official figures exist, public schools around New England have increasingly withdrawn NEASC membership, citing new ways of school evaluation mandated by the 2001 No Child Left Behind legislation and federally-funded Title I school action-plans. As a member of the Vermont Principals’ Association, L&G principal Dr. Dorinne Dorfman polled secondary school leaders regarding NEASC membership status. Of the 15 public schools responding, two-thirds had withdrawn membership, including all 5 that were middle/high schools. Their reasons for leaving, all extensively debated by their respective School Boards, centered on (1) the high cost of membership (approximately $3,000 annually) and ten-year evaluation (estimated at $20,000), (2) the lack of connection with mandated plans, evaluations, and reports to demonstrate actions and growth for Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), and (3) the interference of NEASC with other school improvement efforts, such as the adoption of the Common Core State Standards.

 

Not one school reported any negative consequences as a result of withdrawing NEASC membership. Competitive colleges and universities do not give special consideration to students from NEASC-accredited schools.

Before the School Board made its decision, Windham Central Supervisory Union superintendent Dr. Steven John and Dr. Dorfman shared views from the Vermont Agency of Education. AOE representatives confirmed the challenges NEASC faces in the present political environment of public accountability linked to measures of student academic growth in meeting specific performance standards. NEASC was conceived originally for independent colleges and universities but expanded to high schools some decades ago. Accreditation for postsecondary institutions serves a consumer protection service, but the cost benefit analysis for public schools in Vermont argues against continued membership.

Schools are moving faster, changing faster than NEASC’s evaluation process. NEASC takes too long and, over the 10-year-cycle of accreditation, provides no support for school improvement, beyond the threat of non-renewal of accreditation.

Four secondary schools, Otter Valley, Mount Abraham, Mill River, and Vergennes will team with Leland and Gray to develop a new evaluation system. Including required data analysis and reporting as part of No Child Left Behind and involving teachers, students, parents/guardians, and School Board members in the evaluation process will be key components.