From Nancy Jester’s blog: “Process Versus Results – Accreditation by SACS”

Nancy Jester posted a letter on her blog the other day outlining her thoughts on the SACS action putting DeKalb on probation. Today, she posted another in what looks to be a series of blog posts on the subject.  She is not holding back and telling it like it is.  Good for you Nancy!  We appreciate your honesty!

She begins,

I thought it would be useful to provide some historical context to the whole accreditation issue. Five years ago, if you had asked me what accreditation means, I probably would have told you that it meant something about the quality of the education that kids received; that it judged in some way the results of how well children were educated.

It does not.


Click here to read the rest.

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15 Responses to From Nancy Jester’s blog: “Process Versus Results – Accreditation by SACS”

  1. no name says:

    SACS is a “Protection Racket for Superintendents”, according to a memorable post over on AJC’s “Get Schooled Blog”.

  2. waitaminit 1 says:

    First–I don’t see why SACS would care any more about Supers than anything else.

    Moving on:
    However, I first started questioning the value, motives and “reason for SACS” when they were late to the party on Clayton and then again on Atlanta testing scandal (and of course the problems in DeKalb were clearly criminal and well documented even before Clayton was brought up by the governor’s office–MIA in DeKalb). In each case, the governors office had its hand in before SACS came in–and in each case the governors office had absolutely no precedent for intervention–there had to be a handoff to SACS or the Guv would be forced to make “final” decisions. SACS then come in with a meaningless review of “process” (as Jester outlines)–delivers a verdict–of what–nothing, nada in relaity. Meanwhile the Guvs office (representatives) disappear–never to be involved again. This whole dance allows no one to be held responsible for action.

    However, in each case, a BLACK government is impuned (however incompetent, it is questionable) and tried by the press–and representatives are replaced (again, with no legal standing to do so in the case of Clayton–it was before the new law was passed). In the case of Atlanta, there were resignations.

    People, in the third world this is called a coup–and SACS is the hammer.

    SACS is nothing more than a political tool for changing players (when current ones outlive their usefulness)…and SACS gets its power from US because we are willing to unquestioningly read anything that the press spews–and fall for the propoerty value threat. I beg you now to consider what the possible reasons there might be for SACS coming in right at this moment–and why it is convenient for the Guvs office and legislature…Hint–this is very closely connected to the New City movement, if not directly, at least by similar interests.

    How do we get real results in education here? I’ll tell you what it doesn’t depend on… It will have nothing to do with what SACS is doing (as Jester implies) and probably will have nothing to do with whoever sits on our BOE. I’ll also tell you that those results will only accrue to those populations left in county schools within 10 years–immigrants and blacks. The rest of the kids will have left for state charters, private schools–and yes–new city school systems.

    …and the only way the results will show up on the score board is if those independent school results are mixed in with the county’s…which they won’t be…even tho they represent an education that county residents have available to them.

  3. Good points, Waitaminute.

    Let me share some history as well — from one of our contributors

    There’s a very good book — Kevin Kruse, White Flight: Atlanta and the Rise of Modern Conservatism, that lays out the background of current events.

    Once middle- and lower-middle-class whites were confronted with desegregation, they abandoned the public sphere — first public trans, then golf courses, then parks, then the public schools (the big one). As they fled to the burbs (and later the exurbs, as blacks moved to places like south DeKalb), they embraced a new understanding of private rights to mean the right to choose whom to associate with in public. Ideas whose roots went back to unapologetic racists like Lester Maddox (Civil Rights Act = infringement on individual rights / liberties of whites) became mainstreamed in the now-ascendant Republican party.

    Meanwhile, upper-class whites stayed on the northside of Atlanta and remained linked to the black leadership through business. The white upper class had never been faced with the consequences of desegregation because they used private institutions anyway. Hartsfield’s model of “managed desegregation” was based on the coalition between black leaders and white business, though it did get challenged whenever black activism became too “radical.”

    As all this unfolded, national black leaders criticized the Atlanta black leaders for abandoning the broader goals of desegregation for the sake of political power and economic enrichment. The national NAACP criticized the Atlanta chapter for putting the interests of “negro administrators” above those of “negro pupils.”

    The fact that no one really cares today about what goes on in places like DeKalb, Atlanta, south Fulton public schools is a symptom of the “abandoned public sphere.” From the point of view of the assimilated middle class, one sociologist argues, inner-city schools come across as exotic “Indian reservations”.

    To the extent that there is renewed interest in the public sphere by middle-class whites, it now expresses itself more in separatism (Brookhaven, Dunwoody) via the Republican Party, whose ideology goes back to white flight (though things have changed a lot in terms of who can live where, go to which school, etc. — with money, not race, being paramount today).

    This leaves the economically motivated black administrative class that arose as a direct consequence of desegregation and white flight fighting for its life while the ground is shifting beneath its feet. Also, the white upper class — in the form of law firms, construction companies — continues to reap enormous material benefits from its ties to the black political leadership in the school boards and municipal government.

  4. noduh says:

    Agree with Nancy. It makes no sense to accredit a District as a whole. I’ve always thought individual schools should be accredited or not — perhaps this is what NCLB was trying to do with AYP and its suggestion that schools should clean house after not making AYP enough years in a row. That didn’t work out so well. Perhaps SACS paints a whole district with the ugly brush so it won’t be accused of racism. There must be some prism through which to view all schools that will fairly assess which ones are working to benefit students and which ones aren’t.

  5. kwb says:

    Begging the question — in Dekalb County, are our high schools individually accredited? i.e., if the district as a whole loses its accreditation next year, will graduating seniors be eligible for Hope scholarship? Anyone know where to obtain this information?

  6. Concernedmom30329 says:

    Dr. Lewis was so proud of system wide accreditation. I wonder if anyone on this board ever participated in a school based SACs visit before system wide accreditation. They didn’t visit every school to decide if all schools received accreditation, rather they conducted surprises visits to some schools on a predetermined date, if I recall correctly. (I could be remembering wrong on this detail.)
    I know of schools where parents did their darnedest to get the representatives to at least notice things that were wrong, specifically as it related to facility problems. Not only did it not work, but often the representatives were administrators from poor, rural systems and everything in DeKalb seemed great. While there was value in the process of preparing for the visit, most schools were only looked at on paper, via some type of report, and not actually visited.
    It, too, was a joke. The Georgia Accrediting Association will be a joke. Texas and North Carolina have their own accreditation systems and higher academic achievement levels. A legislative solution is what we need and given the overall poor quality of our legislature, we are probably out of luck.

  7. concernedmom30329 says:

    I also want to add that the Governor removed the Miller County school board earlier this year and that system is majority white. It wasn’t a quick process though. Even the State Board of Ed gave the Board there a chance to get their acts together.
    And the appointed board voted to fire the superintendent. This quote should perhaps give us hope and I think speaks to the situation in DeKalb as well.

    “There certainly were Board problems prior to us, among the other Board, but there were also many problems in the leadership side, particularly from the Superintendent stand point, and those matters had to be addressed,” said Buddy Johnson, the newly appointed Chairman of the Miller County BOE.

  8. waitaminit 1 says:

    Not only is there a difference between certifying school SYSTEMS versus individual SCHOOLS, there’s a huge difference between certifying school system RESULTS versus system GOVERNANCE. It’s a mishmash right now in the SACS review as to what they consider the biggest issue–the MANAGEMENT (executives) or the GOVERNANCE (BOE). Then also, if the management, is it only money/corruption or does it drill down into curriculum and education.

    In my view, SACS has to take responsibility for the economic consequences of its certs/decerts. If they take a shot at a SYSTEM, then they need to do complete work. Review the BOE, review the management (including educational results across the county)–and then separate the individual schools, so that some diplomas will pass muster for college applications. By certifying schools, there would be only one issue–academic results. Perhaps do that on a four year basis.

    My guess is that now that the company has decided to take on governance (as Jester points out–its new–started only four years ago–and its the only cert company that does it)–it really has no time to do anything but take on low hanging fruit and respond to high ranking political agenda.

    It would be very interesting to see how this politically-driven shift in SACS has roots in Decatur and its unique historical role in “background” leadership of the state of Georgia–its confluence of leadership organization/judges/influencial law firms and bankers.

    (DSW’s reference to the K.Kruse book is apt here, but the Decatur specifics and role of the Justice System is a subject in and of itself). Can’t wait to read that book BTW.

  9. The DeKalb County Public Library has several copies of Kevin Kruse’s book, White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism — and it may be reserved online for pickup at a library branch near you. Kruse is a Princeton University history professor and best-selling author.

    Also, we highly recommend a book by African-American sociologist E. Franklin Frazier: Black Bourgeoisie. It explains a lot — a real eye-opener! It is also available in multiple copies at DeKalb County Public Library.

  10. John Heneghan has a really good post explaining the school system’s situation and how we got here – he’s included several relevant video news clips — he even quoted one of our posts on the subject.

    Conflict and chaos in DeKalb County Schools – Probation, possible Board recall by Gov. Deal and Nancy Jester telling it like it is.

  11. waitaminit 1 says:

    DSW–thanks for the reference to the books. A quick look at reveiws and excerpts on the web (mainly wiki) show that this should be required reading for all DeKalb residents (not only for school system issues). Understanding the power calculus (that the answer cannot simply be to take sides) would show that simply “wiping away” existing legal frameworks and/or creating parralel systems will solve nothing for public good and the Commons in total. It should be more embarrassing for us to enable a cynical historical elite patronage system to influencial use and manipulate us than to live in a place that is governed ineptly.

  12. Weary worker says:

    Here’s a little story I heard from a DCSD staffer who spoke with a SACs employee. The SACs person was asked why they lowered the standards for schools in Georgia requiring Media Specialist. The response was that the standards were changed to facilitate an easier merger with another accrediting agency. So SACS changed policy not to improve teaching and learning but to let their organization grow and become one of the largest agencies of its kind in the nation. Business trumps quality.

  13. howdy1942 says:

    I’ve lived in Dekalb County for almost 40 years. Both of our children were educated – all 12 years – in Dekalb County. We once had a great, highly acclaimed school system. It was a model for schools around the nation.

    For 25 years, Dekalb County was enmeshed in a judicial proceeding. I well remember when the County wanted to bus my first grader from the school that is only 100 yards away from our home to a school over 6 miles away! I do not recall being that mad over a single incident in my lifetime, now over 70 years. We had lived in Dekalb County just over one year and had absolutely nothing to do with what had ever occurred. Now some federal judge thought he knew what was best for my child and cared little for her well-being. What would happne to my child if there was an emergency? If she got sick? How could we actively be involved in the school if we lived 6 miles away? We knew our community, we knew our neighbors, and we knew many of the children who attended our school. But my child was to be punished.

    That’s when our friends and neighbors began to leave. One today, another tomorrow. Others went to the expense and inconvenience to enroll their children at private schools. We started this so-called “majority-to-minority” program. Children from distant communities were bused in. Our schools became less “community-focused” The government simply thought it knew better. Somehow it thought that the solution was to bus a black child miles from his/her home and sit him/her down next to a white child.

    Well, we have today what we have. We haven’t just arrived at this point. The very people who were supposed to be the target of this judicial proceeding left or found other ways to address their issues. The sad reality is that those children who were supposed to benefit by this judicial action now are much worse off then the predecessors ever were. They have no recourse. They are locked into this system. Whatever one may have thought of the Dekalb School System of 20 – 25 years ago, it was far better than what we have now – for all parties!

    I appreciate the DSW referencing those books. I’ve lived through the experience in Dekalb. Both of our children are now grown and gone from Dekalb. We are now in the sunset years of our lives and this is our home and it will continue to be. I hope that we can bring some kind of positive resolution to our current situation. We harbor no racial malice – if we did, we would be long gone! We hurt for our children – of all races – who now must face the harsh consequences of a very inept, biased, and incompetent majority on the school board. I don’t live in Dunwoody, but I do appreciate Nancy Jester. We voted Womack out. He was part of the problem. I am hopeful that Walker, Cunningham, and Copelin-Walker will soon be gone. I would urge the people who are represented by these three to consider seriously the fact that you have not been represented well and that that your children will hurt because of this school board. I think that the Governor will remove them – just don’t let them come back!

  14. howdy, thank you for sharing your story because I truly do not think many people understand how heartbreaking this whole nightmare can be, not just for the children, but for the parents and grandparents who have had their dreams broken, too.

    One of the most anticipated days in a parent’s life is seeing your child off to school on their first day, all the hopes you have for them and their future success are with you and the optimism you have about the opportunities just waiting for them. I don’t know at what point it happens for each family that goes through the DeKalb system and maybe it isn’t the same for everyone, but I suspect it is similar – at some point you come to terms with the fact that what you thought and what you had hoped are simply not even close to reality here.

    You can try to fix it, but soon you realize there are much bigger issues at play than any one of us can fix on our own. Even coming to a place like DSW doesn’t solve the problem, but at least it lets everyone know they are not alone and they are not being singled out. And as outraged as it makes you, there isn’t anyone who truly can help or will be outraged with you because it has already happened to them, too. That’s the really sad part.

    At some point, you realize the school system does not want to partner with you in helping your child succeed and the best you can do is hope that no harm comes to your child or your neighborhood as a result of the greed that has taken over as the primary purpose behind every decision that is made. The kids deserve better, and the grown-ups who have been raised to respect one another and embrace diversity deserve better, too.

  15. howdy1942 says:

    Thank you GettheCelloutATL! Happy New Year to you and to all!

    I despise racial prejudice – regardless of its source. I now have neighbors who are African-American and I’ll assure you that they have no more respect for Walker, Cunningham, and Copelin-Wood than I do. We are all very concerned about our children and have nothing but disdain and contempt for those on the school board who failed us. I am personally very pleased that they now must show cause as to why they should not be removed – that will be a tough task given their long record of incompetence. Hopefully, we will no longer have this group to deal with by February 1, 2013. They could spare all of us a lot of grief while also sparing themselves some respect by simply resigning. I doubt that will happen.

    Anyway, we have at least reached bottom and a turning point that can only offer more hope and promise. I just hope that they will go quietly. I also hope that Atkinson is giving careful consideration to her future. We need a new slate.

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