It was not the first time in my 10 years as a Vermont citizen, educator, and taxpayer that I was left baffled by the Agency of Education. At the March 25 State Board of Education meeting, Deb orah Quackenbush (Director of General Supervision & Monitoring) shared that the agency may no longer be confident that an accepted third-party accreditation is enough to justify state approval of K-12 independent schools. It may just not be robust enough. Her solution? It's not to reaffirm the quality of those third-party organizations, but ra ther insists that the agency can do it better.
Now if Ms. Quackenbush insisted that Harvard University needed to be approved by the state because their own accreditation was not good enough, most folks would laugh, offer her some water and lead her to a chair, or both. But no the AOE can do it better.
From its website we can read about one of these third-party accreditors: "Founded in 1885, the New England Association of Schools & Colleges, Inc. (NEASC), is the nation's oldest re gional accrediting association whose mission (www.neasc.org/ about-us/mission) is the establishment and maintenance of high standards for all levels of education, from pre-K to the doctoral level. NEASC serves more than 2,000 public and independent schools, colleges and universities in the six states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hamp shire, Rhode Island, Vermont, and American/interna tional schools in more than 67 nations worldwide." Despite their history, integrity, accomplishment and quality, NEASC the same accrediting body of Harvard and MIT, as well as our own UVM, Middlebury, and more seems to no longer be good enough for Vermont's K-12 independent schools. Ms. Quackenbush believes that they can do it better.
If this isn't troubling enough, what was once a no-cost-to-the-taxpayer endeavor (yes, NEASC is funded by the member schools or private donations as a not-for-profit, not taxpayers dollars), required approval by the AOE will now create more agency work, more people hours and, ultimately, more bureaucracy. And, of course, greater expense of public dollars. But, they can do it better.
I hope that the agency stops and evaluates this nonsense before moving too far down the road. I fully support having high standards of all third-party accrediting agencies for Vermont schools, and I applaud a cyclical review of those agencies. Some may indeed not be good enough. But the answer is not refusing or accepting all accreditations for Vermont schools. NEASC is respected for its accreditation of some of the world's most renowned and regarded schools and universities in the world. Don't you think they actually may be able to do it better?
Head of School, The Mountain School at Winhall