Mark Elgart: Accreditation means a quality, standardized education

Dr. Mark Elgart is the founding president and CEO of AdvancED, the parent organization for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement  as well as the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement and the Northwest Accreditation Commission, headquartered in Alpharetta.

By Mark Elgart

School accreditation is an honor, a mark of distinction as well as an acknowledgement that the education offerings of a school, school system, college or university meet standards, benchmarks and performance criteria in the advancement of student achievement. In the United States, for K-12 schools, accreditation is also completely voluntary, and all accrediting agencies are selected and invited to review and accredit by the school or school system seeking or maintaining that accreditation.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) was founded in 1895 at the Georgia Institute of Technology. SACS is one of six regional accrediting agencies recognized by the federal government. Following a merger in 2006, the K-12 division of SACS (SACS CASI) is now part of AdvancED, which accredits more than 32,000 institutions in 71 countries, serving in excess of 20 million students worldwide, including 30 of the 50 largest school systems in the United States.

The accreditation process was designed as a collegial, peer review and continuous improvement process, intended to maintain as well as to enhance student outcomes. Our organization has 41 field offices across the United States and internationally, and in a typical year, our professional staff work with nearly 18,000 trained professional volunteers to conduct accreditation reviews and field visits.

Accreditation reviews examine the institution’s teaching and assessing practices, the purpose and direction of an institution, whether its governance and leadership are functioning effectively in accordance with established policies, whether data is used to support improvement, and resources and support systems for students.

During the fall semester of 2012, AdvancED performed 1200 of these reviews, with many of these schools or schools systems experiencing challenges, being placed under review or on accredited probation. Only one of these systems was placed on accredited probation primarily over governance concerns, and that was the DeKalb County School System.

Our review structure allows for a period of appeal when a school system differs with our findings of fact or our recommendations for improvement. In the case of our December 2012 review of the DeKalb County School District, the system had the opportunity to appeal our findings, but chose not to do so. As a result, the system accepted our findings and committed to making the necessary improvements. The most significant areas in need of improvement are student achievement, fiscal responsibility and governance.

AdvancED/SACS CASI works closely with the leadership and stakeholders of any educational institution towards improving student performance. We believe that it remains possible for the DeKalb County School District to effectively address its current challenges and achieve success in meeting the needs of its urban population of growing diversity.

AdvancED/SACS CASI accreditation is accepted globally, though we are not the only accrediting agency in Georgia, nor do we accredit every school or school system. In the Atlanta Public Schools, we accredit the high schools but do not accredit the elementary and middle schools. Therefore, during the CRCT cheating scandal in 2009-2010, we had no jurisdiction.

Much like the college diploma or possibly higher degree that may adorn your den or office wall, that diploma is only valued as highly as the curriculum, criteria for graduation and accreditation of the awarding institution. Without accreditation, students may have difficulty transferring state to state and may not meet admission, financial aid or scholarship requirements.

The needs of students are changing as they prepare to be successful in our diverse world. In Georgia and across our nation, we are on the edge of a major shift in the current education system, which is largely institutionally focused, to a system focused on the learner. This will require significant changes in the utilization of resources and perhaps a reconfiguration of thousands of schools and school systems.

When accreditation began, ours was largely an agrarian economy. In the south, most children were never even expected to reach high school graduation. Today there is an almost universal expectation of post-secondary education, and yet, we are still using a system designed for those earlier outcomes. This must change.

As a former teacher and school principal, I also realize that real and lasting change in large organizations or a bureaucracy is typically incremental and can take considerable time. As we watch the children of Asia and parts of Europe pull away from our children in terms of performance, aptitude and ability, do we really want to wait that long?

As a parent with two children in public schools, I don’t.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

143 comments Add your comment

Centrist

April 13th, 2013
7:29 am

Schools need standards. Only those who don’t measure up squeal about such standards, and we have seen plenty of that of late.

catlady

April 13th, 2013
7:42 am

So much to discuss, so little time!

“whether its governance and leadership are functioning effectively in accordance with established policies,” These are SACS “established policies.” That includes squelching debate about proposals by the superintendent. It also means that “everyone has to agree” which is the antithesis of American beliefs.

Who accredits the other schools? You know, the 20 large systems that don’t turn to AdvancEd? And, with Dekalb and APS among those that do, how is that working out?

No jurisdiction over the cheating mess? Just exactly where did those shortchanged kids end up? Yep, in those SACS-accredited high schools! And how about financial malfeasance? Surely that plays in here as well!

Finally, tell us how much is charged for this “accreditation?”

I have a sour taste because I have seen what SACS has (and has NOT) done in my system. Never again will I have any faith in this “institution.” I would urge those in our state to move swiftly AWAY from this source!

Dr. Trotter, take it away!

Dr. John Trotter

April 13th, 2013
8:01 am

We have been pointing out for going on five years now the sheer hypocrisy of Mark Elgart’s and SACS’s actions. SACS’s so-called “standards” are a way to keep elected school boards in line and a way to protect superintendents and the politically-connected (uh, perhaps certain school board attorneys? Hmm.). SACS is simply used as a tool to keep the politically-connected in some kind of control once they have lost the control at the ballot box. See Clayton County and DeKalb County.

The Atlanta Public Schools (APS) was different because the politically-connected (uh, King & Spalding, Price Waterhouse, et al., perhaps) were still apparently getting what they wanted. So, a blind eye (literally a “blind eye”) was given to the shenanigans of the Beverly Hall Administration. And, these same “connected” people and institutions apparently took an active role trying to cover up these shenanigans and to prop up the already-disgraced Beverly Hall Administration. I believe ole Markie Mark Elgart also took an active role in trying to keep Hall’s house standing…before it came crumbling down.

What Mark Elgart and SACS did in Clayton County was unconscionable. This was all started because the two apparent favorites of SACS (Chairperson Ericka Davis and Vice Chairperson Rod Johnson) were seeing their unethical actions exposed and their powers slipping between their fingers. Hence, these two apparently thought that they could just use their friend Mark Elgart and SACS to scare Norreese Haynes into submission. Mr. Haynes was bringing about most of the heat on these two by his courageous expose of such matters as the now-infamous “land deal” in Clayton County, a deal that was pushed through without the signature of the superintendent. Richard Belcher on WSB TV 2 did a two-night report alone, interviewing Mr. Haynes at length. On one day alone, the four main local network news stations in Atlanta as well as the national FOXS News called Mr. Haynes for interviews, but trying to be a “team player” on the school board, he turned down their requests for interviews.

After this and other matters which Mr. Haynes exposed, Rod Johnson filed a formal complaint which consisted of mush. Mr. Haynes responded forthright with a 12 or 13 page complaint of detailed information with about 20 or more exhibits to SACS, demonstrating with great persuasion the unethical actions of Ms. Davis and Mr. Johnson who were apparently pointing the finger at him and others. What did Mark Elgart do with this detailed complaint provided to him and SACS (and sent, I believe as well, to attorney Glenn Brock, who seems to work hand-in-hand with Mark Elgart)? Well, Mr. Elgart just observed the “pass over.” He just passed right over it.

Instead, Mr. Elgart and SACS came out with a “report” that was, as Norreese Haynes labeled it the very day that it came out on February 15, 2008 in his own press release that was carried in the AJC and attached as a PDF, “a sham and a farce.” I read the so-called “report.” It was pitifully written and of virtually no substance. In fact, it was full of factual errors as well. SACS didn’t want to know the truth about what was going on in Clayton County. Initially one of the Central Office administrators in Clayton County called me and asked if I would be willing to interview with the SACS “investigation” committee. I assured him that I would love to interview with the committee. On the day of my scheduled interview, I was called by this same gentleman to inform me that SACS had changed its mind about interviewing me. Mr. Haynes stated to me that when he went before this same committee and reached in his brief case to pull out documents which would buttress the claims which he had made, the chairman of the committee hastened to let him know that he and the committee were not interested.

The Clayton County situation was an open-and-shut case from the very beginning. The “investigation” stuff was a joke. Same thing for DeKalb. What happened in DeKalb is that board members were getting way too independent and couldn’t be called in by a friendly phone call by the politically-connected. Glenn Brock’s offer of his services for a “search” for a new superintendent was rebuffed. Then the school board went out and inexplicably hired a lightweight superintendent from some small town in Ohio. Obviously, some members of the DeKalb School Board knew the connection between political power and money. Political Science 101. Pretty basic. But, sometimes the politically-connected are so arrogant while feasting at swanky places like the Piedmont Driving Club and discussing the billions of dollars associated with public school systems that they seem to forget that the elected members of school boards who may just dine at the South DeKalb Piccadilly Restaurant also see the money involved. And, guess what, they have the legitimate levers of power, viz., elections at the ballot box. But, ah, those feasting on seared salmon, scallops, and asparagus at the Piedmont Driving Club have SACS.

Yes, this is where SACS comes in. It is a private organization with absolutely no oversight from the State. No accountability whatsoever and scads of conflict-of-interests. Its money comes from the public coffers, from the same source which it “evaluates.” Mark Elgart and SACS have smarmy relationship with the Georgia’s superintendents. They love SACS. SACS acts in a distinct way as their “union.” I have said many times that SACS should more accurately stand for Still Advocating for Cronies and Superintendents (SACS).

Oh, yes, let’s return to Clayton County. The next month after the so-called SACS “report,” I presume that Ms. Davis and Mr. Johnson saw that Mr. Haynes was not one bit intimidated by Mark Elgart and SACS. So, Ms. Davis contacted Eldrin Bell to do an “investigation” about where Mr. Haynes was living. Mind you that this is none of Mr. Bell’s business (by the way, he was slaughtered in this last election by Jeff Turner), but he got the Clayton County Police Department to “investigate” where Mr. Haynes lived. They did a pretty horrible job because they went to his former residence in Morrow and apparently knew nothing about him moving to Conley in a house still in the district. I knew about it and had visited Mr. Haynes at his Conley home. Mr. Haynes had even officially changed his address with the school system and the Registrar’s Office in Clayton County. But, when you are not really looking for the truth, you won’t find it. Despite the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office conducting an extensive investigation of Mr. Haynes’s residence and issuing not one but two different reports stating that it could not find evidence that Mr. Haynes lived outside his voting district, this same foolhardy Ericka Davis led the push in the March 2008 school board meeting to illegally kick Norreese Haynes off the Clayton County School Board. Not all board members voted to kick Mr. Haynes off the school board, but all the remaining eight school board members either stepped down under duress and apparent shame, beginning with Chairperson Ericka Davis, or were removed by the Governor.

The State Law clearly states that an elected official of Georgia cannot be removed without first obtaining “judicial determination.” Mr. Haynes’s lawyer, Preston Haliburton, clearly and eloquently pointed this out in Judge Deborah Benefield’s courtroom, but Judge Benefield apparently did not have the stomach or nerves to hear the case and, quite frankly, would have gone all the way to Hong Kong and back to try to find an excuse not to hear the case. She demurred. A real act of judicial cowardice. She was indeed a profile in cowardice.

Ericka Davis, not in conjunction with other school board members but acting alone (which violates SACS’s precious standards), called on her buddy, the County Commission Chairman, Eldrin Bell, to “investigate” Norreese Haynes’s residence. The office charged with this type of investigation is the Georgia Secretary of State. What about when the Clayton County Board of Education illegally voted Mr. Haynes off the school board? What did Mark Elgart and SACS do about this illegal move? Nothing. The same thing that Mark Eldart and SACS did with the Cobb County Board of Education even admitted to holding 57 illegal school board meetings. Heck, I remember when Mark Elgart and “advisor” Glenn Brock and two State Board Members met illegally behind closed doors with the Clayton County Board of Education. That was a real irony. I presume that it is O. K. to violate the State’s Open Meetings Law if you are connected. Hmm. What did SACS do when Superintendent Alvin Wilbanks of Gwinnett County failed to report 45,000 serious disciplinary offenses to the State of Georgia as required by law? Nothing.

I write all of this in some details to simply demonstrate that Mark Elgart and SACS are hypocrites. Several years ago when Crawford Lewis and Beverly Hall were riding high, I came up with my list for The Three Biggest Educational Hypocrites in Georgia. I later abridged this list to include Edmond Heatley of Clayton County. So, my list consisted of Hall, Lewis, Heatley, and Mark Elgart. The first three stepped down or were pushed aside rather disgracefully. I am hoping that the public will finally see the light of the great hypocrisy of SACS and its leader, Mark Elgart. I have offered to debate in a very public forum Mr. Elgart concerning the arbitrary and capricious application of SACS’s so-called “standards.” I have made this offer several times for almost five years. He has not even responded. I will debate him in Jekyll Island (he may be more comfortable at The Jekyll Island Club) or the Piedmont Driving Club (perhaps in the Alston Room), at the 29th Street Gym in Columbus, Georgia, in the Comer Auditorium in Bibb City, Georgia, at the Dairy Lane Barbeque in Sandersville, Georgia, at the Busy Bee Restaurant on Martin Luther King Drive in Atlanta, at Butch’s Chicken House Restaurant in Jonesboro, at the Big Chicken in Marietta (here Glenn Brock won’t have to travel far), or at Paschal’s on Northside Drive. Heck, I would even travel up to Mt. Alpharetta where Zeus Elgart lives. I don’t think that Mark Elgart wants to defend his actions in public. I would have more respect for him if he submitted his actions to a rigorous debate, with a thorough and sifting examination of these so-called “standards.”

Folks, the emperor is naked. SACS is a joke. It is a control mechanism. I prefer to allow the voters to control their politicians at the ballot box. This is how a democracy works. Anything else smacks of a pitiable Gnostic oligarchy. © JRAT, April 14, 2013.

Dr. John Trotter

April 13th, 2013
8:02 am

April 13, 2013. Sorry. I am a day ahead of everyone. Ha!

mountain man

April 13th, 2013
8:17 am

As Mark Elgart points out – accreditation is entirely voluntary. Don’t like SACS then choose another accrediting agency. I find Mark Elgart’s arguments persuasive – maybe because I have not delved into the politics. But I agree with centrisst that the ones who don’t measure up seem to squeal the loudest. How would the Dekalb mess have ever been dealt with had not SACS put them on probation? Maybe some people just like “business as usual”. If someone wants to counter Mark Elgart’s statement about not having jurisdiction over Elementary schools inAPS, let them do so with FACTS, not platitudes like “but the elementary students will end up in high schools where SACS does accredit”. I was glad when SACS placed Cherokee schools on probation in 1999 – it brought about needed change (not that I reaped any benefit – I had already fled the Cherokee Couty School System and never went back). I am glad that SACS put Dekalb County on probation. Nothing was being done before that.

Autoteachersonny

April 13th, 2013
8:21 am

I agree accreditation is very important. If you agree then why is national industry recognized accreditation of career and technical education not required by Georgia at the secondary or post secondary level?. Our students could receive nationally recognized certification in high school for well paying careers as electricians,automotive techs, plumbers, welders, and technicians in many fields that do not require a four year degree. Yet many are told the only path to success is a four year degree. That is Bravo Sierra in real life. Our Technical colleges are full of 26-30 year olds that realized their college degree in (you fill in the blank) has no market value. Sure a college degree has worked for many teachers and others but what about the drop outs who are not suited up for academic rigor of memorizing for the test, but thrive in a hands on performance based learning environment.

Dr. John Trotter

April 13th, 2013
8:40 am

Just back from cooking breakfast. Catlady, our timing is impeccable, right?

No one is arguing with accreditation per se but with SACS’s biased and hypocritical way of arbitrarily and capriciously applying its so-called “standards.” Plus, SACS pays an inordinate amount of attention to “governance” and making sure that all school board members are smiling at the right times, holding hands, and singing nursery rhymes together. This is antithetical to the democratic process, and this unrealistic “Welcome to the neighborhood, boys and girls” approach is not played out in other democratic bodies, be they the Alpharetta City Council, the General Assembly, or the U. S. Congress, much less the U. S. Supreme Court. Hence, we are back to my original proposition that SACS is used by the politically connected as a control mechanism, pure and simple. All of the “accreditation” fluff is apparently for looks.

When is the last time that SACS actually took an inventory of how many books are in the library at Stonewall Tell Elementary School? The library at this school may be very tiny and third-rate but SACS will never be bothered with these important facts. SACS only wants to focus on “governance” because this is easy, and it particularly only wants to focus on the governance of those school boards which are demonstrating some independence from the power-who-be in Georgia.

concernedmom30329

April 13th, 2013
8:47 am

Dr. Trotter,

Governance affects what happens in schools. If you have a poorly governed system, like Atlanta or DeKalb, look what happens. Resources get misspent, priorities are misguided, etc.

While no system is perfect, well-governed ones have a better shot at attracting and retaining top staff. Is it ok with you that individual board members, in some of these poorly governed systems have had employees fired over things like football tapes?

Private Citizen

April 13th, 2013
8:47 am

Interesting angle, viewing SACS as a superintendents’ union. In economic caste, they have in common $200-400k salaries.

Private Citizen

April 13th, 2013
8:58 am

Oh Demanding Mountain Man, If you read a little closer, you may see the language and method of colonisation. The front end “entirely voluntary” marketing is utterly bizarre. It sets the tone for some kind of parlor informal mode, “conversational?” It’s like the warm fuzzy blanket from NPR, where never a real critic is heard in their programming, and every lefty falls for it. Key word: collectivism. GW Bush oft said, “Let’s bring people together.” Collectivism. And free labor, too. 18,000 “volunteers” as field officers?
_________________

On a separate note, my instinct is that “AdvancED/SACS CASI accreditation is accepted globally” is a pretty serious misrepresentation. According to their website, SACS etc. has offices in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Please go look at their map for yourself: http://www.advanc-ed.org/locations/international

This is not “accepted globally.” That’s a lie. A big lie. A big Liar Liar Pants on Fire lie.

mountain man

April 13th, 2013
8:58 am

“Is it ok with you that individual board members, in some of these poorly governed systems have had employees fired over things like football tapes?”

In Cherokee County, a Board member tried to fire a coach over allowing rap music to be played. Thank goodness for SACS in these cases!

Dr. John Trotter

April 13th, 2013
8:59 am

@ Concerned: Are you conveniently forgetting that Mark Elgart was actively involved (very active) in trying to prop up the slim school board majority who were going along with everything that Beverly Hall wanted? Are you forgetting this? Remember when a new majority took over and Mark Elgart apparently tried to get the new Chairperson, Mr. El, to resign?

In general, “governance” is taken care of by the voters. I remember when the Clayton County Board of Education meetings n the old days (1980s and early 1990s when the school board was composed of 11 white members) were knock-down drag-outs. The fighting was notorious. The meetings went past midnight. It was great! It was democracy in action. None of this detrimentally affected what went on in the classroom. The kids were still learning. It was, quite frankly, only when African Americans assumed power in Clayton that SACS seemed to get interested. I am just telling the hard cold facts. I was there. I witnessed all of this. The same thing in DeKalb. It was only when the white businessmen (along with about three white school board members in Atlanta) began to lose some discernible power that SACS wanted to get involved in the hellacious Atlanta Public Schools – not about the largest cheating scandal in the history of American Education but about “governance.”

By the way, the State has it “State Standards,” and has had them for years. I know that when I was an administrator, the folks (usually retired superintendents or the like) from the State Education Department came around to inspect the schools to make sure that the State Standards were being enforced. They did this with a lot less hypocrisy and fanfare than Mark Elgart exhibits.

mountain man

April 13th, 2013
9:01 am

If you were a UGA admissions officer, would you rather accept someone from a SACS-accredited school or one that just “does its own thing”?

mountain man

April 13th, 2013
9:04 am

“It was, quite frankly, only when African Americans assumed power in Clayton that SACS seemed to get interested.”

You seem to infer that SACS only targets black school systems – Cherokee County 1999 is proof that is not true.

concernedmom30329

April 13th, 2013
9:15 am

I don’t think SACs or Elgart are heroes, Dr. Trotter. But here goes, the reality is that incumbency is very powerful. I have a statistic that more than 90 percent of incumbents win their elections.

Governance issues have not been addressed by the public, most of whom pay no attention to school systems.

Dr. John Trotter

April 13th, 2013
9:16 am

@ MM: Elgart wasn’t in charge of SACS back in 1999. Look at his apparent hands-off practice with Cobb, Gwinnett, and Fulton. All of these systems have skeletons not just in the closet but out in the open. ELgart only brings in this SACS tanks (1968 Prague-style) into Clayton, DeKalb, and Atlanta (but quite tepidly in Atlanta – apparently because Atlanta still has blue blood connections). Face it, MM, SACS is just hypocritical, plain and simple. There is no consistency at all. Heck, if any school system truly deserved to have its accreditation stripped, it was APS. But, Elgart, I think, apparently kept worrying about Sam Williams and the Metro Chamber of Commerce, the guys at the Piedmont Driving Club, et al. A dollar to a dime he met with guys.

concernedmom30329

April 13th, 2013
9:16 am

Should say I have seen a statistic that more than 90 percent…

Dr. John Trotter

April 13th, 2013
9:22 am

Well heck, Concerned, it looks like you just have a basic problem with the democratic process in general. Do you want an oligarchy instead to choose your leaders for you? I think that you have bought into the horse sh^t about the school board members not abiding by Rodney King’s admonition “to just get along.” I just told you that the all white, 11 member Clayton Board of Education (and I can name their names right here, both Democrats and Republicans) used to fight like cats and dogs. But, educational excellence was not being affected. And, by the way, SACS never darkened the door. Never.

mountain man

April 13th, 2013
9:33 am

“@ MM: Elgart wasn’t in charge of SACS back in 1999″

So apparently your beef is with Mark Elgart and not SACS, then, right?

Private Citizen

April 13th, 2013
9:33 am

mountain man silly, (real) university acceptance is based on the application essay.

Georgia

April 13th, 2013
9:39 am

Garbage in, garbage out? Putting the seal of approval on failure doesn’t change the aroma of failure. It’s the curriculum. We’re teaching our children unusable nonsense, and they’re plagiarizing their thoughts about that nonsense. It’s not the teacher’s fault at all. It’s not the parents fault. It’s the curriculum. When I think of all the crap I learned in high school, it’s a wonder I can think at all. I just wrote that.

mountain man

April 13th, 2013
9:54 am

“mountain man silly, (real) university acceptance is based on the application essay.”

And partially upon the race of the applicant. Diversity, you know.

Private Citizen

April 13th, 2013
9:57 am

Our students could receive nationally recognized certification in high school for well paying careers as electricians,automotive techs, plumbers, welders, and technicians in many fields that do not require a four year degree. Yet many are told the only path to success is a four year degree.

Because this would not feed the college debt-industry, currently at $1 trillion debt held by students, a situation that is entirely unique to the United States. And Obama goes to the podium and says, “Everyone should go to college.” Who is he working for? Who is he fronting for? He sure is not fronting for reality. Probably 40% of high school students have absolutely no interest in “going to college.” Who builds the roads and pours the concrete and tends to the giant chicken industry and frames the houses and puts on roofs and turns wrenches at Midas shop and oil change at Wal-Mart and puts on tires at Sam’s Club and drives forklifts and drives semi-trucks and unloads ships at the port and drives tractors to grow onions in Vidalia and works the counters and cash registers at the various farmers markets in Atlanta area or makes carpet in Dalton? None of these folk have the slightest interest in giving a dollar or an hour to a college. College is training for the professional caste and that is only a portion of society. It sure is not the labor portion that does the manual work that supports everyone else. There’s probably a labor supply chain of 20 non-college people so you can get one item at the grocery store or market. Why is education continually used as marketing so someone can make profit? $1 trillion in college education debt. Sing it from the rooftops. It’s not an issue anywhere outside of the USA.

Beverly Fraud

April 13th, 2013
10:08 am

In the Atlanta Public Schools, we accredit the high schools but do not accredit the elementary and middle schools. Therefore, during the CRCT cheating scandal in 2009-2010, we had no jurisdiction.

Really Markie Mark? You had no jurisdiction when people tried to strong arm the former board chairman El into giving the position back to a woman that (according to this very paper, correct me if I’m wrong Maureen) actively conspired with Beverly Hall to cover up evidence of cheating?

Oh, I forgot, YOU were one of the people that tried to strong arm El (alluding in your SACS report to those who said his chairmanship was ‘illegal” though a judge ruled it PERFECTLY LEGAL!)

Maureen, it’s not that you allow this stuff to be printed (posted?) by why do you let it be posted UNCHALLENGED?

This harkens back to the day where Kathy Augustine said “…our reforms are working so well, there are no discipline problems to report” and Jay Bookman was silent.

Private Citizen

April 13th, 2013
10:12 am

Let’s me get this right. “You need to voluntarily sign-on to our continuous improvement process so that your process will improve” 20 years later…. Your process has not yet improved, so you need our continuous improvement process.”

Buzz off.

“Okay, but at least we’ve managed to implement and port a whole bunch of “data” on individuals and sell it to our data managers who will use it when needed. In fact, I can provide you a psychological profile based on 20 metrics on any student under our continuous improvement processes. Ha. And we (our great purpose-based collective) charged them for every bit of it. And this gives us political power, too. For we hold the keys to knowledge, err, I mean information.”

Dr. John Trotter

April 13th, 2013
10:12 am

Let me just break it down on how SACS worked in one county…

At one time, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) was a rather harmless private enterprise that almost gratuitously gave out its “good housekeeping seal of approval” to colleges and schools if you kept a modicum of standards and did not get too far out of line and were willing to jump through a few hoops when a team from SACS came to visit. Then, lo and behold, a new Pharaoh rose up over SACS, and SACS began to flex muscles that many educators never knew that it had or should have had. Mark Elgart became this educational Stalin who ruled this faceless educational Politburo with an iron-first and apparently wished to wield the same muscle over the vast Soviet-like territories where SACS had extended itself. The rather small SACS office in Decatur was moved to a more opulent edifice in Alpharetta, and if your school system wanted to be blessed with the hallowed “SACS accreditation,” then the school system had to collectively and metaphorically kiss the Educational Zeus’s rear end as he sat upon Mt. Alpharetta. Or, more aptly put, perhaps Elgart became the Educational Buddha whose tummy had to be rubbed before the school systems received his blessing of full accreditation.

If the word “inconsistent” is found in the dictionary, it should have a photo of Mark Elgart next to it. He has been supremely inconsistent in applying SACS’s so-called Standards. They are egregiously and flagrantly applied in the most arbitrary and capricious ways. For example, the school systems of Atlanta and DeKalb never lost their accreditation (scared but never actually lost accreditation), although Atlanta was scandalously exposed for having, according to The New York Times, the worst cheating scandal in the history of American Public Education, and DeKalb’s top two executives were indicted on a number of criminal accounts. But, poor little Clayton County had its accreditation yanked because, from my perspective, Elgart was trying to help the politically-connected to get back in line the elected school board members who would not toe the party line. Also, one of the Clayton County School Members told me that Glenn Brock told that Clayton board that the reason that it was in trouble with Elgart was because board member Lois Baines-Hunter called out Mark Elgart at a public meeting, telling him that he didn’t have any “integrity” because he had come to the school board meeting at the behest of only one board member, Chairperson Ericka Davis, not from a call from the collective school board itself. So, Elgart seemed to be out to get the Clayton County Board of Education and consequently to affect the Clayton County children as well as the residents of the county. The SACS Report (if you want to generously call it that) was, as Mr. Norreese Haynes who was serving on this school board at the time called it, “a sham and a farce.” The “report” was flawed, biased, and weak as water. Elgart made hilarious claims that on their face could not be true. Yet, the media understandably went wild with this yanking of accreditation which resulted in the citizens of Clayton County panicking.

Mr. Elgart’s “cure” for the Clayton County School System was far more damaging than any perceived ailment. It was tantamount to dropping an atomic bomb on a county for stubbing its metaphorical toe. Like amputating a whole leg to cure an in-grown toenail. It was laughable, if it were not so true. I blame Mark Elgart and his private company for destroying a here-to-for rather thriving community. Businesses shut down or moved out of the county. In droves, houses went up for sale…and eventually many were simply foreclosed on. Millions of dollars in real estate vaporized into thin air. Real estate value is largely rooted in perception, and the perception became that the Clayton County School System was falling of the proverbial cliff. A significant portion of the best-performing Clayton County students moved to other counties or transferred to private schools or illegally used the addresses of relatives and friends to surreptitiously land a student placement in another school system. And this, according to Mark Elgart, was action to improve the school system?

Mark Elgart has a penchant for unanimity of opinion on the school boards. Why? What’s wrong with a dynamic democracy…like the type exercised in the U. S. Congress, the Georgia General Assembly, or the Alpharetta City Council? What is wrong with disagreeing and having split decisions on school boards? No, no. Elgart says that this shows that the school board is not “working together.” He apparently wants the school boards to sit around, hold hands, and sign kum-ba-ya. The only true unity is unity in diversity…diversity of views, votes, and opinions. Anything else is uniformity of opinion or conformity to the wishes of the superintendent. Elgart apparently likes school board members who demonstrate that they will not dissent from the wishes of “the professionals.” In other words, he seems to like only those school board members who nod their heads in agreement to anything that the appointed superintendents want. Hence, I have said for a long time that SACS stands for Still Advocating for Cronies and Superintendents. I believe that SACS serves as a sort of “union” for the superintendents. I have actually heard anecdotal stories about superintendents in Georgia getting mad at elected school board members because they would not go along with him or her and the superintendent exclaiming, “I am thinking about calling SACS on them.”

SACS is not accountable to the people of Georgia. It has long ago outlived any usefulness that it might have served in the past. It is a money-grabbing private company. It monies come from the taxpayers. The school systems not only pay SACS a school system fee but also a fee for each individual school accredited within the school system. Then, the school systems have to pay for continual SACS training, as well as for the materials. And we know that the school systems have to pay dearly if SACS steps up its game and enters into the investigative mode. Is there a money motivation at SACS? We read in an article that this newspaper wrote on SACS a couple of years ago that SACS, like many other private businesses, was undergoing some financial strains. How do we know what the motivations of SACS are? Why are some school systems like Cobb, Gwinnett, and Fulton apparently immune from stiff SACS sanctions? Are there more politically-connected people in these counties? SACS is certainly fickle and feckless when faced with daunting evidence. It often just ignores this evidence, like it did Mr. Norreese Haynes’s devastating 12 page complaint about the unmitigated micro-managing of the Clayton County School System by Chairperson Ericka Davis and Vice Chairperson Rod Johnson, just as Mr. Elgart ignored the many ethical breaches that Mr. Haynes brought up about these apparently SACS-favored Clayton County School Board members.

What can be done about SACS? The State of Georgia should simply choose not to participate in SACS’s shameless game. Personally, I think that this whole SACS accreditation game is a sham. The Georgia General Assembly should simply pass enabling legislation (to give it the strength of law) for the Georgia Schools Accrediting Agency (GSAA) to be administered by the Georgia Department of Education. The State Superintendent is elected by the People of Georgia. He could personally appoint the people to serve from time to time on this agency, or it could become more political like the Georgia Board of Education with the Governor appointing Members from each Congressional District for fixed terms. I prefer the former over the latter. Many teachers and administrators (or retired school system personnel) can serve on the school visits, if school visits are even called for. After all, this is what SACS does. SACS uses the personnel within the Georgia school systems. What the People of Georgia would finally have is accountability. If someone got out of hand and far afield like Mark Elgart has done, then his or her chain could then be jerked because the State Superintendent and the Governor are still elected in the State of Georgia, unless Mark Elgart can figure out how this disagreement at the polls is a threat to accreditation. (c) JRAT, April 13, 2013.

Beverly Fraud

April 13th, 2013
10:14 am

From MountainMan “I find Mark Elgart’s arguments persuasive – maybe because I have not delved into the politics”

@MountainMan, if you knew that Mark Elgart had a private meeting (with Kasim Reed in tow, am I right about that particular point Maureen) with the board chair of APS (Mr. El) and tried to force him to resign, so the chairmanship can revert back to Lachandra Burks-Butler, the woman who actively conspired with Beverly Hall to cover up evidence of cheating in APS, would you find Elgart’s arguments as persuasive?

Dr. John Trotter

April 13th, 2013
10:15 am

I have a another rather long post captured by Mr. Filter. I tried to break it down on how SACS worked in one county…

Clutch Cargo

April 13th, 2013
10:18 am

Wow.

Get Schooled- Come for the agitprop , stay for the conspiracy theories.

Beverly Fraud

April 13th, 2013
10:26 am

Maureen, before allowing Elgart to use your paper as a PR forum, did you at least, as a watchdog challenge his action in the APS debacle and hold him accountable as a journalist, before allowing him to spin, now that the heat is apparently on?

And how did this piece just suddenly show up? Did Elgart contact you because he’s been getting the (much deserved) heat on this blog?

I ask, because if you print this without confronting him on this concerns, aren’t you almost giving his point of view the “AJC seal of approval”?

Private Citizen

April 13th, 2013
10:30 am

Clutch, Ask any veteran returning from Gulf War I about “conspiracy theories.” You know, like the guy who got sick from agent orange, the government would do absolutely nothing for him and when he went back to his old job as a contractor and messed up the first parking lot he made, he found he could not work, then his wife divorced him and he ended up in jail for not making child support payments. Then he said, and I quote, “Can you believe this sh–?” Tell that guy about your “conspiracy theories.”

Private Citizen

April 13th, 2013
10:32 am

BFraud, Giving voice is not giving approval.

Teach

April 13th, 2013
10:32 am

Mark Elgart has kids in public schools? I find that hard to believe honestly.

OriginalProf

April 13th, 2013
10:38 am

@ Private Citizen and Mountain Man.

“University acceptance” starts with the applicant, who is from a SACS-accredited high school, having sufficiently high scores on the ACT or SAT tests and the Freshman Index. And students aren’t likely to be able to achieve those scores if they come from schools that have been denied SACS accreditation. The results of problematic BOE governance issues considered by SACS for accreditation spill over into many academic areas: financial responsibility, classroom control, administrative line-of-command issues. All indirectly affect the students.

Beverly Fraud

April 13th, 2013
10:42 am

@concernedmom who wrote:

Governance affects what happens in schools. If you have a poorly governed system, like Atlanta or DeKalb, look what happens.

Yes concernedmom, and when the APS board was rubber stamping Hall with 9-0 votes, academic genocide was the result, and SACS was full of praise for the APS board.

It was only when a nasty, contentious fight broke out (the Furious Five replacing Burks-Butler, a woman who actively conspired with Beverly Hall) that the board finally started honestly responding to the cheating scandal.

And it was only when the woman who actively conspired with Beverly Hall to coverup evidence of cheating when Elgart got involved…and he got involved to get the board to reinstate the woman who actively conspired to cheat!

This isn’t “internet speculation” this is AJC reporting that this meeting took place.

If you can’t address Elart’s actions on this concernedmom, then you just aren’t being honest about SACS and their political not educational agenda.

Beverly Fraud

April 13th, 2013
10:47 am

@Private, that’s why I qualified it with “almost” like giving a seal of approval.

It does indeed give it a legitimacy an unchallenged one.

Simple solution Maureen: As you have done on so many controversial issues, why not seek out an opposing point of view, (perhaps Dr. Trotter) and let him have his own post above the comment section, to give the opposite point of view its on air of legitimacy?

Which it indeed does have, based on stories in your own paper!

bootney farnsworth

April 13th, 2013
10:52 am

sorry Mark, the curtain has come open on the mighty and powerful Oz – the king of con men.

I was with GPC when SACS came through under Belcher. saw the two step first hand. SACS officials were took on very specific tours, obviously staged, and SACS asked zero questions. several tours were scheduled at times when the student body was mostly absent.

you guys were whined and dined, and driven by “hosts”, almost all carefully selected due to “party loyalty”. the rank and file were told very clearly not to bother them, and speak only if spoken to.

bootney farnsworth

April 13th, 2013
10:56 am

for those who are buying the line that membership is voluntary –

it’s like paying protection to the mafia. you don’t HAVE to, but you won’t like the results if you don’t.

Beverly Fraud

April 13th, 2013
10:59 am

Elgart needs to be renamed Saran Wrap he is so transparent. He only bring up the “we don’t accredit every school” so he can give plausible deny-ability (sp) to sitting on the sidelines during the CRCT cheating.

What Elgart doesn’t tell you is that there is evidence of cheating in the HIGH schools, and he’s been silent on that as well.

Did Elgart really think he was going to accomplish something with this pathetic spin?

I guess so, since as a “former teacher” he’s getting paid well for what’s he helped do to the children of APS. After all Judas only got 30 pieces of silver.

living in an outdated ed system

April 13th, 2013
11:02 am

For everyone who was throwing SACS under the bus, this statement is VERY telling:

“the system had the opportunity to appeal our findings, but chose not to do so.” One system out of 1,200 was put on probation, and they chose NOT to appeal. The legal challenge has to go away, and let the new board try and find a way to improve the school system. How can we focus on improving our schools when our largest school systems are poorly governed and indicted for cheating on state tests?

I think it’s time we start reporting on innovative learning tools and ways to improve education, and less about scandals that have already been over-reported.

bootney farnsworth

April 13th, 2013
11:03 am

here’s what people need to know about SACS, if nothing else.

it is a con game we all play. its a good old boy system of the highest order. since so many people see an older organization with a fancy title, they give it an assumed level of legitimate – ness it does not deserve. and the members know and count of this.

SACS is pay to play at its finest. if you pay, we give you a good rating and all is well. even when it isn’t

Beverly Fraud

April 13th, 2013
11:05 am

Maureen, as you have done so many times before why not allow a counterpoint, such as from Dr. Trotter as a blog topic?

You can’t disagree, that enough legitimate points have been brought up about SACS to more than warrant a counterpoint as a blog post can you?

Especially since you have brought them up yourself!!!

Private Citizen

April 13th, 2013
11:05 am

I’m kind of having a logic problem with the idea that one fairly small organisation can direct the outcome of “accredits more than 32,000 institutions.” AdvancED / SACS is based in and head-quartered in the Atlanta area and in their own backyard has been allowed great malfeasance to seed, plant, and grow to full maturation over several years right out in the open. If they were a fire dept., they would show up after half of the building had burned down. If they were a gardener, you’ve have a field of kudzu before they rose from the affable tea room and gave any heed.

This is like Obama with former political career from gun-crime capital Chicago wants to now tell everyone how to regulate guns. This is like Michele Rhee from lowest graduation rate in the country Washington, DC schools is now going around lecturing state assemblies about how to run schools. It is completely crazy. Hey, Let’s cast a spell and see if anyone believes it. Se Dissolvant Circumstantia Falsa!

bootney farnsworth

April 13th, 2013
11:05 am

@ living

you’re correct, but with a caveat. you gotta cure the cancer so it doesn’t spread.

bootney farnsworth

April 13th, 2013
11:07 am

a basic question for SACS defenders: if it means a quality education….what exactly do they consider quality? southern public education continues to lag behind the rest of the nation.

bootney farnsworth

April 13th, 2013
11:10 am

@ Maureen

I agree with Beverly. this is a major point of contention, underlying everything we do as educators.
I don;t mind you giving Elgart a forum for this views, but emphatically encourage you to offer up an opposing POV. if Dr. John is unacceptable, I know there are several SACS critics out there.

Beverly Fraud

April 13th, 2013
11:13 am

I think it’s time we start reporting on innovative learning tools and ways to improve education, and less about scandals that have already been over-reported

@living, to do that discounts the political agenda of SACS and the influence they will have over the “innovative learning tools”

If SACS is allowed to pursue political agendas rather than educational, then it stands to reason that will stand in the way of pursuing all options of “innovation” available.

Beverly Fraud

April 13th, 2013
11:16 am

For everyone who was throwing SACS under the bus, this statement is VERY telling:

“the system had the opportunity to appeal our findings, but chose not to do so.” One system out of 1,200 was put on probation, and they chose NOT to appeal.

No living this is NOT telling. If they were appealing to an independent agency other than SACS it would have been…

bootney farnsworth

April 13th, 2013
11:19 am

I am appalled by the cavalier – “we had no jurisdiction” comment concerning B Hall and the CRCT debacle.

reminds me of the argument of the average German citizen after WW 2. we didn’t do anything, it was the other guy over there. wasn’t our problem

Private Citizen

April 13th, 2013
11:21 am