Accreditation standards to update school policies

By Maegan Ortiz

East Los Angeles College will need to comply with new standards proposed by The Accreditation Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC).

The ACCJC is a branch of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges dealing specifically with accreditation for community and junior colleges.

The ACCJC sets standards of compliance which all schools must meet in order to be fully accredited. This  ensures access to federal aid and grants.

The new standards are still going through a vetting process, but ELAC History Professor and Faculty Accreditation Chair Barbara Dunsheath expects them to pass unchanged in late June.

“The proposed standards are actually minor variations of standards that have been in place since 2002. It’s not like the commission totally rewrote them,” Dunsheath said.

The standards are in the area of student outcomes, academic quality, institutional effectiveness and continuous improvement of student learning and achievement.

Accreditation is an opportunity for ELAC to reflect on what worked and what can be done to improve the school.

The process begins with an internal peer review process – a self-study that allows for reflection on where the college is in terms of compliance, and where it needs to go.

ELAC has been working toward this since 2003, when a recommendation was made to accelerate the compliance process.

“According to their (ACCJC) timeline we had 10 years. That 10-year period is over and I believe that the commission will hold us accountable if we are not in compliance,” Dunsheath said.

An accreditation team is scheduled to visit ELAC in 2016.

The biggest issue, according to Dunsheath, is Learning Outcomes, which must be in place for 100 percent of classes and programs, written on all syllabi and regularly assessed.

“We (ELAC) are not at 100 percent and there is a significant difference to cause concern,” Dunsheath said.

She said that clear outcomes are part of good educational planning and should be part of an instructor’s class design.

That way instructors know what the take-aways from their classes are and how to measure them.

When a school is not in compliance with accreditation standards, progressive discipline is put into place.

Usually the ACCJC starts with a warning to the school, probation, show cause and finally pulling accreditation.

In June 2005 the ACCJC pulled Compton Community College’s accreditation, causing the school to be absorbed by the larger El Camino Community College District.

Dunsheath feels that ELAC overall is in good shape despite not being fully in compliance.

“Sometimes accreditation gets a bad name but they (the ACCJC) are just trying to get you to be a good school,” she said.

This article has 1 Comment

  1. Dunsheath writes:
    1) “Sometimes accreditation gets a bad name but they (the ACCJC) are just trying to get you to be a good school,” she said.

    2) “The proposed standards are actually minor variations of standards that have been in place since 2002. It’s not like the commission totally rewrote them,”

    For #1, I suggest that Dunsheath read the news about what is happening at CCSF. She might want to start with the City Attorney’s suit against the ACCJC in which the judge granted an injunction that the ACCJC revoke CCSF’s accreditation until the conclusion of the trial.

    For #2, I can only ask, has Dunsheath really read the new standards?
    Here is the comment I submitted on just one of them.

    The January ACCJC document that “crosswalks” the new standards to the current standards shows that the new I.C.9. revises the old II.A.7.b.:

    new: I.C.9.
    Through its policies, procedures and actions, the institution demonstrates that it promotes integrity and that the board, administration, faculty, staff and students, act responsibly and with integrity.

    replaces: II.A.7.b.
    The institution establishes and publishes clear expectations concerning student academic honesty and the consequences for dishonesty.

    Section I.C.9 needs to be rewritten to be less vague and include the important issue of academic integrity.

    Proposed revision of section I.C.9.:
    The institution will establish and publish clear policies and procedures that promote honesty, responsibility, and academic integrity. These policies and procedures will apply to all constituencies (the board, administration, faculty, staff and students) and include specifics relative to each, including student academic honesty and the consequences for dishonesty.

    Rationale:
    This revision of section I.C.9 makes the language much more specific and clear. Furthermore, it includes the issue of “academic integrity”. Without this revision, the new ACCJC standards would no longer include this important issue.

    This revision requires the institution to establish and publish clear policies, and hence eliminates the vagueness as to what this section means by “integrity” and “responsibility”. “Academic integrity”, as it applies to students and to faculty has some reasonable legal basis and general understanding. An undefined “integrity” and even “responsibility” (to whom? by whose measure?) will likely not stand legally if considered in a sanction.

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