Update: Superintendent of Schools John Doherty confirmed that during the School Committee meeting, members voted by a 6-0 margin to back his recommendation and suspend the district's accreditation relationship with the NEASC.
Reading schools will continue its membership with the NEASC and will participate in events, but the district will not go through the accreditation process.
Original Story: Reading Superintendent of Schools John Doherty told School Committee members that he recommends the district end its participation with the independent accrediting group that visits more than 250 middle and high schools around the state.
Doherty laid out several concerns he has with the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) in a letter that was submitted to the School Committee for last week’s meeting.
Accreditation by the group is based on a self-study that lasts 12-18 months and is followed by a site visit by the NEASC. Reading Memorial High School was scheduled to begin the process in the upcoming months for the first time since 2003.
In his letter to school officials, Doherty said his concerns include “the amount of time needed for the self-study process, the expense associated with the self-study and site visit, and the value of such a process in improving schools.” Doherty added that the self-study and site visit cost about $25,000.
According to Doherty, Director of Guidance Lynna Williams contacted colleges and universities in an effort to determine if accreditation has an impact on a student’s acceptance to the school. In total, 47 schools responded and 40 said a school’s accreditation status is not a determining factor.
Four schools responded in saying that accreditation could be a factor, but only if other areas in the school profile were a concern. Three schools told Williams that not having accreditation could put students at a disadvantage by comparison to applicants from accredited schools who have similar credentials.
Doherty wrote in his letter to the School Committee that Burlington Public Schools and Newton Public Schools are tow districts in the state that have already opted to suspend their relationship with NEASC, and several others are considering it.
“Therefore, based on the above information, I am recommending that Reading Memorial High School suspend participation in the NEASC self-study process until innovative changes can be implemented into the NEASC system which will benefit our staff and students,” Doherty said in his letter. “Our high school administration and I are committed to working with NEASC and other school districts to develop a process that is less time consuming, less prescriptive, and more meaningful to our work in improving schools.”