Assessing the Assessors


On January 5 and 6, 2007, the Academic Senate will host its first-ever FACULTY-sponsored and FACULTY-driven accreditation workshop-in short, accreditation for/by/of faculty.not just a workshop sponsored by the Accrediting Commission itself. At this Institute, we will explore a range of topics that include the proper role of peer review, how the Accrediting Commission measures up, the role of participatory governance as related to assessment and the successful self study, and methods for navigating the minutia of outcomes at all institutional levels. Speaking at the Institute will be Chancellor Drummond (Accreditation in California's Community Colleges: The Rest of the Story), Alan Frey (Budgets and Accreditation), and representatives of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), both in general assembly and within a separate breakout session. Though only a two-day Institute, a great deal of information will be covered, and we advise people to plan their travel and attendance so that they can experience the entire Institute, beginning-to-end. Also, extension course credits will be available for interested attendees.

While planning the Institute, it has been our intention to consider accreditation not only from the standpoint of local assessment and planning, but as part of a vastly interconnected system of decisions and responsibilities that reach all the way to Washington, D.C., and into the heart of what we as educators and members of a free society hold as essential rights and responsibilities.

For example, Academic Senate resolution 2.02 S02 requires that the Senate create a report which considers the impact of the 2002 Standards on the system, as well as its colleges, administrators, programs, courses, faculty, students and local senates. Implicit to such a report is the need to assess how well the Commission walks its own talk with regards to accountability-and as a result, what WE, the 58,000 members of the Academic Senate, believe to be the proper role of "peer" review. Interestingly, all such considerations exist against the backdrop of Margaret Spelling's National Commission on the Future of Higher Education, the recommendations of the Miller Commission, and public hearings by the Department of Education this fall. At the heart of our concern remains the preservation of academic freedom, not merely for its own sake but as a necessity in a free society.

As one who grew up during the Cold War, I read 1984, Brave New World, and even such adolescent literature as A Wrinkle in Time. In all such are admonitions against subservience to a world order. In A Wrinkle in Time, the protagonist, a young girl named Meg, travels to Camozatz, a dimension where all children are on the same page in all classes and all balls bounce in unquestioned unison during recreational periods. During the Cold War years, a great body of literature assigned an evil grey singularity to Communist China and the USSR with descriptions that are ironically similar to the reality of No Child Left Behind-the handiwork of Charles Miller of the Miller Commission. Not only do Spellings and Miller desire that every ball bounce as one within the classes of public education but within our colleges and universities as well, as is evidenced in documents released by Spellings suggesting that the high cost of education is due, in part, to the presence of full-time faculty at the post-secondary level.

Just as the Accreditation Institute will promote the importance of faculty oversight of planning and assessment, it will also attempt to sort out where the ACCJC stands in the tugof-war between standardization and academic freedom and what is entailed in preventing the federally mandated scripting of our colleges and universities.

To that end, the ACCJC is being asked in preparation for the Institute to address various questions and issues that the Academic Senate has raised in its papers and articles over the past half-dozen years.

While the ACCJC is not concerned exclusively with California's laws and regulations as applied to our member colleges and System, such issues remain of vital interest to California's community college faculty. We want to know that faculty who serve on visiting teams and at the Commission are fully cognizant of the importance of collegial consultation. We want to know that Commission actions do not overreach their authority, that they are consistent with their own regulations, and that they never supersede the faculty's roles and responsibilities, and that they do not attempt to circumvent local bargaining agreements. We want to know that peer review is truly collegial and that to the extent possible, our colleges, System, and the ACCJC are working in unison on a system of outcomes that support academic freedom and California's laws and regulations.

The 2002 Accreditation Standards offer significant challenges to our colleges to demonstrate a unified approach to planning and assessment.

We believe that if such efforts are to offer meaningful support for our missions, faculty must play a major role and colleges must provide the resources necessary to support such involvement. Accreditation may be cyclical, but assessment and planning are ongoing. To that end, we must be mindful of our professional preparation to participate actively within the decision making processes of our colleges and within the system as a whole. The Accreditation Institute is dedicated to those faculty and educational leaders who share this vision of cooperation and collaboration on behalf of all of our students.