Wake County Schools

Organization threatens to strip Wake schools' accreditation

Posted September 23, 2010 11:03 a.m. EDT
Updated September 24, 2010 6:04 a.m. EDT

Wake County Public School System

— A national organization that accredits high schools says it could strip Wake County schools of accreditation because of the "openly defiant" stance school district officials have taken toward a review by the group.

If any of Wake County's 24 high schools were to lose their accreditation, it could reflect poorly on graduates who apply for higher education.

"The quality of the education, scholarships – there are quite a few things important to graduating seniors," Wake County Board of Education member Keith Sutton said Thursday.

Ann Majestic, the legal counsel for Wake schools, said after a closed-door meeting with the school board Thursday that the board would "try to cooperate" with AdvancED, which wants to send a team of education experts to Raleigh to review recent changes in the school system.

The school board has questioned the motives behind the district-wide review after AdvancED asked for details about the district’s controversial proposal to move away from a decade-old policy of busing students for the purposes of diversity to adopt a student assignment policy based on community schools. Majestic asked in a Sept. 8 letter to the organization how the school board’s move is connected to accreditation.

"They believe any decision of a school board is open for their investigation, and that seems to go way beyond their standards for accrediting schools," Majestic said Thursday.

Kenneth Bergman, general counsel for AdvancED, responded in a Sept. 17 letter that the organization had not reached any conclusions about the shift in student assignment criteria.

"We do have sufficient concerns that the actions of the board may negatively impact the educational opportunities for students of the schools that we accredit in Wake County," Bergman wrote.

The board's actions have created "substantive change" in area schools, he wrote, so AdvancED needs to review them.

"Unfortunately, the openly defiant nature of your correspondence makes engaging in the collegial process of accreditation services difficult," he wrote. "The board's refusal to comply with our requests is in direct violation of the AdvancED Policies and Procedures for Accredited Schools and constitutes grounds for dropping the accreditation of the Wake County schools."

The state chapter of the NAACP, which filed a complaint in March that prompted AdvancED's review, issued a statement Friday saying that it fears the review has been "compromised" by the school board majority's "arrogance."

Accreditation helps ensure that a school is of high quality, which is an important consideration for students, college admissions officers and potential employers, school district officials said. It is also important in transferring credits from one school to another and it can be a means to access federal education funding, college scholarships and military programs that require students to come from accredited schools, they said.

"This is a very serious issue, and we are greatly concerned about it," Sutton said.

School district staff members made some quick calls Thursday to area universities to determine the impact of a loss of accreditation.

"We are told, at Duke (University), they don't consider it at all. At (the University of North Carolina), it wouldn't factor in because they are familiar with Wake County schools," Majestic said. "But it may factor in at universities that are not familiar with Wake County schools."

AdvancED gave the school board an Oct. 1 deadline to set up a meeting and turn over requested information.

"It is our hope that the board and district will take advantage of this extension and fully engage our organization in meeting the difficult challenges facing your schools," Bergman wrote.