Camden Herald editorial

Accreditation matters

By Camden Herald editorial board | Mar 28, 2014

We are not surprised by the reaction of parents in the Five Town Community School District to the potential withdrawal from New England Schools and Colleges' accreditation process.

While school officials have stated that the school's reputation is sometimes enough, we too have concerns about those times when reputation is not enough. What about a student that wishes to go to a college that has never heard of Camden Hills? What is that college supposed to base its decision on without accreditation?

NEASC states its "goals are effectiveness, improvement and public assurance. Unlike popular magazines, this does not involve ranking institutions, but rather establishes a level of acceptable quality for all accredited institutions."

To us, it seems accreditation puts students on a level playing field, particularly when trying to get into a prestigious, competitive college.

Yes, there are schools that are currently not accredited and its likely a portion of students from those schools have managed to gain entry to the college of their choice. But does a lack of accreditation limit student choice?

It is unclear how school officials chose colleges to contact and likewise for the parents who also chose to reach out to colleges on their own. The split answers received by each entity should be enough to warrant further research into the positives and negatives of being an accredited high school before further steps are taken to withdraw.

We understand that accreditation is a time consuming, and likely tedious, process for staff involved. We understand teachers' time could probably be better spent on other types of professional development. But we also understand that the ultimate goal of any school is to put the needs of the students first — the question then becomes which is better for students: accreditation or some other marker of district or personal achievement?

Some colleges state on their websites that students from high schools without accreditation are welcome to apply, though there are standards that must still be proven. University of Oregon application requirements begin with "Graduate from a standard or accredited high school." However, for those applying through an alternative admission program, University of Oregon states "If your school is not accredited:

— Complete either the SAT with a minimum score of 1,540 for critical reading, mathematics, and writing scores combined, or the ACT with the optional writing component and a minimum score of 22.

— Take the SAT Subject Tests in Math I or II, and a second test of your choice in a subject other than math. Earn a minimum score of 470 on each of the two tests, with a total score of at least 940.

— Demonstrate second language proficiency.

— Complete the application for admission, including the 500-word maximum essay prompt.

— Attach a statement of personal circumstances that explains that you attended a non-accredited high school and that you will complete the admission requirements by providing official score reports for the SAT or ACT and for the SAT Subject Tests."

Other colleges, like Georgia Gwinnett College, require students who do not meet the entrance standards to take remedial classes to catch up.

Still other colleges consider students from non-accredited high schools to be in a similar class as home-schooled students. Brigham Young University states on its Facebook page, " ... If a transcript is accredited, we can ensure that a certain standard of education has been met. We understand that there are a variety of excellent non-accredited programs that prepare student to succeed at the collegiate level, but we cannot verify each program individually. For this reason, when a student applies with a non-accredited transcript, we place a great deal more emphasis on the ACT or SAT score."

It is clear that withdrawing from NEASC will not bar Camden Hills students from attending college, but it does seem it will make for a more stressful application process for both students and parents.

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