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Higher Education Accreditation
How It's Changing, Why It Must
4th December 2013
- ISBN 9781579227623
- Language English
- Pages 240 pp.
- Size 6" x 9"
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6th December 2013
- ISBN 9781579227647
- Language English
- Pages 240 pp.
- Size 6" x 9"
Is the accreditation system “broken” as claimed by successive Secretaries of Education and some recent reports?
This book addresses this question head-on, asking whether accreditation is indeed in need of radical reform, and whether the agencies’ authority should be curtailed; or whether in fact the changes now underway – that accrediting agencies contend ensure rigorous and consistent standards and degrees that are a reliable gauge of student attainment – are moving the academy and the nation in the right direction.
In a sweeping and ambitious book, Paul Gaston deploys his knowledge and experience as a peer reviewer for three regional accrediting agencies, a former board member and chair of the Association of Specialized and Professional Accreditors, and his involvement in the early stages of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, to go beyond the polemics to explore whether a strategy that builds on the emerging values and good practices can achieve the substantive and positive improvements the public is demanding.
As an introduction for readers new to the debate, he provides a brief overview of the development of accreditation, its terminology, and structure, describing how it currently works, and what it has achieved; and offers insight into the proliferation of the missions of accreditation – as well as the multiplicity of stakeholders with an interest in its outcomes – to question whether the mandate of accreditation should, as some contend, be expanded, or particular missions reassigned or abandoned.
This established, he undertakes a dispassionate analysis of the arguments and recommendations of critics and supporters of the current direction of accreditation to identify common ground and explore constructive ways forward, paying specific attention to current and potential reforms of the three sectors of higher education accreditation: the seven regional accrediting associations, the national accreditors, and programmatic, or “specialized” accreditation.
The book concludes by outlining a comprehensive approach to reform. His proposal would preserve practices that already work well while advancing important changes that can be incrementally implemented. The result would be a higher education accreditation structure more cost effective, more efficient, more transparent and accountable, and more responsive to institutional and public needs.
“Paul Gaston has done a masterful job of reviewing the history and practice of accreditation in our country. Our way of doing accreditation plays a key role in the strength of American Higher Education. It is very useful to have such an excellent and nuanced review of accreditation from Paul who is so committed to helping campuses improve their work with students and who has such deep experience in the university.”Scott E. Evenbeck, President of the New Community College at The City University of New York.
"Among all the 21st century proposals aimed at improving accreditation, Gaston has got it just right. His thoughtful, compelling, and comprehensive framework, recognizing important developments in accrediting practices to date, calls for accelerated innovations in practices, processes, standards, requirements, and priorities across regional, specialized, and national accreditors. Identifying the complex set of changing and challenging realities that higher education faces, such as new educational providers and modes of learning, an enhanced focus on evidence of student achievement, or the shifting financial sands of higher education, Gaston identifies clear parameters for necessary collaborative reform across accreditors. Let the reform begin."Peggy Maki, Education Consultant Specializing in Assessing Student Learning
“Accreditation is the lighting rod of higher education, but few understand the nuanced complex changes in the field. Political leaders want to assure that students can transition from two- to four-year institutions without losing credits. University leaders want accreditation to cost less and be less intrusive. Students want it to make colleges more affordable.Robert G. Frank, President, The University of New Mexico
Few authors could write a book on accreditation that diverse stakeholders would demand in their library, but Paul Gaston has crafted a balanced, thoughtful explanation of accreditation. With higher education changing faster than it has at any period in its history, Gaston’s book is a must-read to understand the sea change impacting higher education and how accreditation can impact our future."
“There is a remarkable lack of awareness of the considerable work of the past twenty-five years in assessment of learning, in shifting to student-centered pedagogies, in explicit formulation of learning outcomes, and in developing continuous improvement processes in higher education. Paul Gaston is absolutely right that higher education needs to articulate a shared vision of our work and its significance for the nation. Without such a vision, the issues will be framed by others who are less well-informed, and the policy consequences will be—and have been—unfortunate. Paul Gaston’s thoughtful book gives us a balanced assessment of American higher-education accreditation and recommends a measured set of reforms to meet the challenges of this new era.”Eduardo M. Ochoa, President, California State University, Monterey Bay, and former U.S. Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education
Foreword - Eduardo M. Ochoa
Preface: The State of the Union and the State of Accreditation
1. QUESTIONS THAT SHOULD BE FREQUENTLY ASKED
2. MANY MISSIONS, MANY MASTERS: AN EVOLVING CHALLENGE
3. WHAT ARE THE PROBLEMS?: ISSUES CONCERNING ACCREDITATION
4. WHAT’S TO BE DONE? INDICTMENTS AND PROPOSALS
5. HOW REGIONAL ACCREDITATION IS CHANGING—AND WHY IT MUST
6. HOW NATIONAL ACCREDITATION IS CHANGING—AND WHY IT MUST
7. HOW SPECIALIZED ACCREDITATION IS CHANGING—AND WHY IT MUST
8. CONSIDERING PRIORITIES FOR CHANGE AGAIN FOR THE FIRST TIME
Appendix A: An Acronymic Guide to Accreditation