State evaluates education standards

Accreditation team engages students, interviews faculty

By Roxana Amparo, News Editor

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An Accreditation External Evaluation Team is visiting Contra Costa College this week to determine if the college meets federal accreditation standards.
Accreditation is a system of self-regulation developed by higher education institutions to evaluate the overall quality of any given institution and encourage its continual improvement.
Every seven years, The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) sends an Accreditation External Evaluation Team of professionals that hold, or have held, jobs in the education system to provide insight about a given campus through observation and report if that institution is meeting the accreditation standards, Academic Senate President Wayne Organ said.
The accreditation team is made up of faculty members, librarians, chancellors, presidents and other individuals who have been part of the education system in the western United States. The ACCJC is one of seven regional accreditation organizations empowered by the U.S Department of Education to evaluate community colleges.
The accreditation process consists of four phases: internal evaluation, external evaluation by professional peers, commission evaluation and institutional self improvement to meet evolving regional and federal standards.
“We rewrite the self-evaluation study for each accreditation cycle,” CCC President Denise Noldon said. “The college is always seeking to improve and meet its standards, so goals change depending on what the college needs. The accreditation team comes to further evaluate our self-evaluation and see that the college is meeting its standards efficiently.”
Internal evaluation begins when the college selects areas that require improvement and writes up a Self Evaluation Report.
The Accreditation External Evaluation Team reviews the college’s Self Evaluation report and, based on the team’s observation, it is determined whether those areas need improvement or have met the standards, Dr. Noldon said. They then write up their own report.
The Accreditation External Evaluation Team determines what stays, what goes or what else needs to be included in the report.
City College of San Francisco had its accreditation revoked because it did not meet the required standards, according to their accreditation team. CCSF is currently suing to have the findings of the accreditation team invalidated. The trial is set to commence on Oct. 27.
In the past, CCC has received its accreditation and usually meets the required standards, Organ said.
“There has been a real increase (in standards). There are a lot more rules to conform to,” he said.
The last accreditation team visited in 2008, and since then new standards have been implemented for institutions to meet.
“Each day we get a little better,” Organ said.
Accreditation standards represent the best practices in higher education as well as set high expectations for institutions to meet.
When a college or university is accredited, it means that the college has maintained a quality education and has continued to improve said quality.
If an institution is denied its accreditation, the quality of the education is not up to standard.
Accreditation enables students’ units to go toward their degrees, certificates and transfer as well as provide financial aid to students. Units achieved at an nonaccredited school have little to no value.
Once the team completes its visit, it will submit its report for the ACCJC to determine if CCC is accredited. The college will have the results by February 2015 through a letter from ACCJC.
“It’s an opportunity for the colleges to shine,” CCC Vice President Tammeil Gilkerson said.
One of the suggestions on CCC’s list of improvements is to develop a process and policy for working with emotionally distressed students.
There will be open forums for students to attend and input their opinions, classroom visits, individual interviews and meetings for the Accreditation External Evaluation Team to gather information.
There will be an open forum in LA-100 today from 2-3 p.m. and on Thursday from 12-2 p.m.
“Students’ opinions are really valuable,” Organ said.
A copy of the college’s self-evaluation is available to view on the CCC website under Accreditation.