Task force report urges new California community college accreditor

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) — A task force comprised of education experts released a report today concluding that the accreditor tasked with overseeing California’s 113 community colleges has lost the confidence of its member institutions and should be replaced.

The accreditation task force released the 2015 California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office Task Force Report on Accreditation, in which they recommended the chancellor and the Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges replace the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) and investigate all available avenues for establishing a new model for accreditation.

Among the issues with the ACCJC identified by the task force was the commission’s decision two years ago to revoke the accreditation of City College of San Francisco.

In response, the City Attorney’s Office sued the accrediting commission resulting in the college remaining open and accredited Friday.

In recent years, other member institutions have raised consistent concerns about the accrediting commission, especially in areas related to transparency, collegiality and consistency, according to the report. The task force also found that the ACCJC issued an “inordinately high” number of sanctions from 2005 to 2015, compared to other accreditors.

The task force stated that further delays in resolving the issues with the ACCJC would have “adverse effects on our colleges, on our students, and on California’s economy and future and will prevent the timely development of the robust accreditation structure that other regions enjoy and that California lacks.”

The task force urged an evaluation of possible accrediting agents for the California Community Colleges and a recommendation for action to be brought to the Board of Governors by the Spring of 2016.

California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice W. Harris said in a statement released Friday that he “generally agrees” with the findings in the report and believes “it is in the best interest of our 2.1 million students that we begin a conversation focused on changing the way our colleges are accredited in the future. Regional accreditation is vitally important in helping to ensure academic quality, but the current approach is not serving our colleges and students well.”

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said he agrees with the recommendations that Chancellor Harris establish a new model for accrediting California’s community colleges.

“Given the difficult history of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, I am glad to see this issue being raised. Community college students throughout the State should not have to suffer the same uncertainty our own City College students had to endure for more than two years,” Lee said in a statement released Friday.

The task force’s report calls for a new accreditor to oversee California community colleges and falls in line with the views expressed by the California Federation of Teachers (CFT), which has objected to the ACCJC’s attempt to remove CCSF’s accreditation and maintains that the commission is not meeting the needs of its member institutions.

“The ACCJC has lost its way,” CFT president Joshua Pechthalt said in a statement released Friday. “We need a commission with the best interests of students, faculty and public higher education at the center of its work. The ACCJC has other priorities. It forces colleges to waste faculty and staff time and taxpayer money on bureaucratic minutia irrelevant to the classroom.

It makes reckless and ill-informed decisions behind closed doors that harm the lives of thousands of Californians. And in the process, it is unconcerned if it is breaking the law.”

Joanne Waddell, a task force member and faculty union president at the Los Angeles Community College District, said that the ACCJC has ignored or dismissed similar reports in the past.

Waddell said that the task force’s specific recommendation that the agency be replaced as accreditor in California underscores the urgency of the matter and will be difficult to ignore.

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