in Support of NEASC
Accreditation Criteria Fall Short
Dr. Chuck Ormsby
My article, recently published in
the Eagle Tribune and North Andover Citizen, criticizing
the accreditation criteria used by the New England
Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) has drawn
several supportive letters and a storm of protests from
North Andovers we need to spend more
Because the accreditation warning issued by the NEASC has
raised community concerns, it is important for everyone
to take a deep breath and make a reasoned assessment of
NEASCs credibility. Are they unbiased and
Does NEASCs process provide a balanced assessment
of spending, expectations, standards and academic
outcomes, or does it focus disproportionately on spending
and class sizes?
Those offering arguments in support of the NEASC seem to
prefer an assessment that focuses primarily, or even
exclusively, on spending and directly related metrics
such as class sizes.
Could it be that this preference is the result of their
single-minded campaign to lobby for increased budgets and
their unwillingness to manage cost increases?
The arguments employed by those who oppose a more
balanced accreditation criteria either attacked positions
I didnt take, are embarrassingly flawed or, when
actually analyzed, support my original position.
Here is just a sampling:
School Committee Chairman Al Perry begins his critique by
listing reasons why various standards (MCAS, SAT, AP
tests, etc.) are not, taken alone, adequate measures of a
schools academics. If these tests are such a poor
measure of our academic success, why do we spend millions
doing the testing?
Mr. Perry seems to conclude that any test limitations are
an excuse for the NEASC to not include outcomes in its
assessments. This position is just too outlandish to take
Later, Mr. Perry compares the investment in our schools
I prefer to think of it as an investment in our
children to investing in retirement funds. What a
great analogy!! So I ask you: What do you judge when you
review the performance of your investments each year?
Do you assess how much money you dumped into your funds,
or do you judge how the funds performed? Of course you
judge performance by outcomes e.g., percent
appreciation against benchmark standards. In the
education arena, this translates to judging academic
outcomes via standardized tests, not just how much we
spend. Isnt that obvious?
It is incredible that the chairman of our School
Committee cant see this. And it was his analogy!
But it gets worse. Mr. Perry goes on to discuss the
failed curriculum we had in math (TERC) and still have in
literacy (the Leslie Literacy Initiative).
Incredibly, he then concludes that, Our budget is
not meeting our needs. Is he blind to the fact that
we have spent millions of hard-earned taxpayer dollars on
these education boondoggles?
It isnt our budget that was inadequate; it was a
lack of standards and a lack of common sense oversight by
our School Committee. What failed was a committee that
abdicated its responsibility and permitted the
educators to experiment on our children with
curricula that didnt even attempt to teach basic
arithmetic methods, promoted dependency on calculators,
and avoided teaching spelling and grammar.
What did a lack of money have to do with any of this?
Mr. Perry concludes with the impact of loss of
accreditation on local real estate values. So let me get
this straight: We should give credence to a flawed
accreditation process, direct our attention to greater
spending and continue to ignore expectations and
standards, just to keep our real estate values up? While
I dont believe that our real estate values will be
adversely affected by NEASCs assessment and
such claims are never accompanied by any proof I
cant imagine embracing a lie at the expense of our
students merely to protect my real estate investment.
Liz Weber, in an October 29, 2006 Op Ed piece in the
Eagle Tribune entitled Without enough resources,
schools cant teach and in an identical
letter in the November 3rd North Andover Citizen, also
took issue with my thesis that NEASC should broaden its
Regarding the importance of money and class size, Ms.
Weber suggests that I dont want to pay the
going rate for teachers.
But I do! If the union will just let us hire teachers on
the open market like private schools do, paying
approximately two-thirds what public schools pay and
providing health benefits more in line with the private
sector, we could employ many more teachers and have much
greater breadth in our academic programs.
Remember, the going rate is the market rate,
not an artificial rate coerced by the unions.
Ms. Weber then suggests that, if you wonder whether the
NEASC accreditation process is focused on the right
metrics such as spending and class size, you should just
ask the NEASC. Hey, I thought the debate was whether or
not the NEASC accreditation criteria were appropriate.
So, Ms. Weber wants us to ask the NEASC, a bastion of
ex-public schoolteachers and administrators, about the
validity of their own process?
My goodness, that will be enlightening!
After detailing the stresses imposed by large class
sizes, a problem that would disappear if we could hire
teachers at the going rate, Ms. Weber
concludes by saying, Failing to tie in educational
expectations and standards with spending and class size
is na´ve and debilitating. But that is precisely
my criticism of the NEASC accreditation process.
Since tying in is a concept independent of
order, I would merely reword her closing comment and
conclude, Failing to tie in spending and class size
with educational expectations and standards is na´ve and
Thank you, Ms. Weber, for helping me make this most
Ms. Weber signed off by sending this half baked
meal back to Chef Ormsby. Hopefully, Mr. Perry, Ms.
Weber, and the other members of the just spend
more crowd will consider the matter fully baked.
Charles Ormsby, Chief Chef, North Andover School
Committee you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
*Send your questions comments to ValleyPatriot@aol.com
The November, 2006
Edition of the Valley Patriot
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