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U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan speaks up in favor of diversity in Wake (NC)

"America's strength has always been a function of its diversity, so it is troubling to see North Carolina's Wake County school board take steps to reverse a long-standing policy to promote racial diversity in its schools," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan wrote in a letter that appeared on January 13 in the Washington Post and also provided to The Associated Press.

The controversy began last spring when the Wake School board voted to have school assignments based on neighborhood schools instead of the policies to have assignments based on to achieve socio-economic diversity.

This issue has called into question the district’s ability to have the high schools accredited by AdvancED. Inquiring minds have started asking questions about the accreditation process and what it means to students. Using my children’s high school as a reference point, I compiled answers to these Frequently Asked Questions:

Accreditation of High Schools – FAQs

What is accreditation? This is a set of rigorous protocols and research-based processes for evaluating an institution’s organizational effectiveness; it is far more than that. Today accreditation examines the whole institution—the programs, the cultural context, the community of stakeholders—to determine how well the parts work together to meet the needs of students.

Why is accreditation important? The Accreditation Progress Report is a useful report for members of the school and broader community. It helps community members see and monitor the ongoing improvement efforts of their school. It demonstrates how the school uses its accreditation for the ongoing benefit of the students it serves.

How is Green Hope High doing? Green Hope High School has an outstanding 90+% proficiency rate on End-of-Course tests. The remediation groups are in place to make it even higher. The June 2010 Green Hope High AdvancED Accreditation Progress report is available at this link:

How do our WCPSS students compare with other NC graduates? On virtually every measure, WCPSS graduates were more successful at gaining admission and making academic progress at the member institutions of the UNC system than was true for graduates of other North Carolina high schools. This continues a trend that has been seen since at least 1990.  Taken together, then, these figures suggest that WCPSS graduates are well prepared for college at the conclusion of their high school career. While it is certainly true that the mission of the WCPSS is larger than college preparation, this is very important for many families. From A Digest of UNC System Reports on Freshman Performance available at this link:

What will happen if WCPSS loses accreditation from AdvancED? WCPSS high school graduates are well received in NC colleges and universities. In the event the district is no longer accredited by AdvancED, that would remain to be true for some time. Best guess is that we cannot be assured of the same reception in other states if our students are not graduating from accredited high schools. There does not appear to be another accreditation company that would be as good of a match for the Wake school district. Research compiled by Liza Weidle, NC Mom Congress delegate.

What’s next? According to reports, the AdvancEd review will happen February 17-18, with or without the cooperation of the board. Duncan ended his letter with these words “In an increasingly diverse society like ours, racial isolation is not a positive outcome for children of any color or background. School is where children learn to appreciate, respect and collaborate with people different from themselves. I respectfully urge school boards across America to fully consider the consequences before taking such action. This is no time to go backward. “

Liza Weidle is the NC Mom Congress delegate and author of "Truth about Parenting: Navigating the Elementary Years."