After several months of dealing with school board turmoil and a cheating scandal, the 47,800-student Atlanta district got some good news this week: Its high schools are no longer on probation with AdvancEd, the parent organization of the accrediting agency Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement.
The district's high schools had been placed on "accredited probation" status back in January, months before the state released a report that said widespread cheating occurred in many of the district's schools. The accrediting agency cited board infighting as a major problem in the district.
Students who graduate from unaccredited high schools may find it difficult to enroll in certain colleges or apply for some scholarships that require a diploma from an accredited institution. However, dropping accreditation is a rare step. Instead, the agency offers five statuses: fully accredited, accredited on advisement, accredited warned, accredited probation, and non-accredited. The accrediting agency announcement moves Atlanta up to accredited on advisement status.
In a monitoring report from September, a team that visited the district said it was making major progress in "focusing on the proper role of the [school] board."
However, the report cautioned that several people interviewed by the AdvancEd team "expressed cautionary concern about whether the APS Board's improved functioning would continue after the 'bright lights' of SACS CASI, the Governor's Office, the Mayor's Office, and the State Board of Education have been extinguished. This issue of sustainability raises concern. Parents, government leaders, and others should be responsible for making clear to their Board that they expect these improved behaviors to continue in the future."
The district will be expected to produce a progress report on its efforts to continue its good governance initiatives by September 2012.