Sunday, April 10, 2011

SACS experiencing backlash

Today's AJC has published a lengthy report regarding the newfound higher level of power and influence of AdvancED, the company that runs the Southern Association of Colleges & Schools (SACS) accrediting.

Private agency, public power

Interesting tidbits include:
  • AdvancED, run by hard-charging President and CEO Mark Elgart, has since 2006 built a brand that boasts it drives quality education for 27,000 schools and 16 million students in 69 countries.
  • Georgia is ground zero for accreditation trouble: Six of the eight districts that AdvancED has put on probation nationwide are here.
  • AdvancED took in more than $21 million during each of the past two fiscal years, records show. It moved into a spacious new building — a sleek, modern glass castle with high ceilings and ample seminar rooms — in an Alpharetta office park.
  • While Georgia passed a law last year elevating the importance of accreditation, North Carolina lawmakers are considering a bill that would bar public universities from considering SACS credentials for admissions or scholarships and make the state the primary accreditor, instead.
  • Georgia’s education department has little power to intercede if districts have problems, so residents learned to complain to SACS, instead.
  • Unlike in states such as Maryland, Georgia’s education department does not provide oversight for SACS’ activities.
Read the article. It's interesting.  

6 comments:

atl said...

I question GA DOE oversight simply because so many high ranking DCSS administrators have high ranking positions in the GA DOE after they retire from DCSS.

fedupindcss said...

I thought this article was funny, because in my opinion SACS has done nothing towards really dealing with DCSS and its problems. I would argue that DCSS is worse than APS and Clayton in many ways, and yet SACS didn't come close to the same level of action. But the idea of having Georgia accredit its own school systems is bizarre. Kind of like the judge in a beauty contest picking her own kid to win.

SHS said...

@ fedupindcss

Actually, since 1904 Georgia has been accrediting its schools through the Georgia Accrediting Commission (http://www.coe.uga.edu/gac/index.html)located at UGA.

Not a single peep has been heard from GAC's executive director, Carvin Brown,ED.D., (carvin@uga.edu) during all the turmoil in DCSS. In fact, he has received several emails which he has yet to even acknowledge.

GAC requires "membership" in order for a school to go through the accreditation process. There is no indication of how much "membership" costs. There also is no listing of schools accredited by GAC.

GAC's standards for accreditation are useful sources of information, but have no teeth.

As far as I can tell, GAC is more of an agency that provides a listing of "accreditation consultants" (retired educators) for hire.

SHS said...

I published the following response to Jim Walls' article on Atlanta Unfiltered regarding Mark Elgart:

It would be interesting to see SACS’ budget. My understanding is that SACS (ah — excuse me, AdvancEd) is completely funded by monies from (can you spell “extorted from”) schools and school systems.

So, that means that Mark Elgart is essentially paid by our tax dollars.

However, Elgart is not answerable to taxpayers.

Even when I was given a personal referral to Elgart that was also followed up by a phone call to Elgart from the high-level person who provided the referral, he refused to talk with me or meet with me. And, he was told that I had a good bit of documentation about wrongdoing in DCSS that he would want to see.

Eventually, someone named Jennifer Oliver (Elgart’s PR person) called me. She was the only one Elgart would allow me to talk with. I told her what I had and why I wanted 15 – 20 minutes of Mark Elgart’s time. That was nearly a year ago; I’m still waiting. Nice person, Jennifer, but useless.

SACS/AdvancEd accreditation is baseless. It used to be better — I know because I edited a number of SACS self-studies. In fact, for parents who were trying to make an informed decision in school choice (public vs. private) I always recommended that they go to each school, ask to look at all recent SACS materials, and spend several hours taking copious notes. SACS then provided a relatively reliable benchmark that transcended individual schools and school systems.

Eventually, SACS/AdvancEd must have figured out that they could make a lot more money for a lot less work if they simply accredited whole school systems. It’s hard to understand how DCSS could retain its SACS/AdvancEd accreditation when the number of DCSS schools not making AYP has been growing each year.
moefla

Subsequent to my response, Jim Walls published a URL for SACS/AdvancED's IRS Form 990 tax document (http://www.atlantaunfiltered.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/advance-education-inc-2009.pdf). Strangely, it is for FY2009 and is on a 2008 form that was signed in 2010. I have not had time to look at it in detail. But, if you are interested, you might want to look at how many employees SACS/AdvancEd says they have and their reported total salary expense.

To understand the Form 990, here is a handy diagram (http://foundationcenter.org/findfunders/f990_sample.pdf) as well as a free guide (http://www.npccny.org/Form_990/990.htm). Both documents are provided by the Foundation Center of Atlanta.

Cerebration said...

This is interesting. I wonder if it's in any way connected to the pending legislation I heard about where taxpayers won't be allowed to know about gifting to public employees... no limits? I'll have to dig up the details on that. Themommy - do you know? You have great legislative knowledge.

SHS said...

Oh, geez! Gene Walker must be in hog heaven! A bill to prevent taxpayers from knowing about gifting to public employees plus no limits?

How did I miss that?

Who sponsored that bill?

I'll bet Gene Walker didn't miss it. I can practically hear the rapid pitty-pat-pitty-pat-pitty-pat-pitty-pat beating of his cold, greedy heart right now!