Will Accreditation Survive COVID-19 and Racism? | Sanje Ratnavale | 6 Min Read

What do parents and students do when they want to find out about a school’s quality? What do teachers do? Exactly what they would do when they book a trip or a vacation. Check social media.

The COVID-19 summer of 2020 was a sad case in point, as accreditation leaders had to contend with the reality of public shaming on social media by black students of their experiences at schools nationwide. Was this problem picked up by accreditation protocols or by school accreditation visits? Did any of the accreditation recommendations unearth a lack of inclusivity, racism, and inequity? There was no way for accreditation leaders to obviate responsibility because it was not confined to a specific school or even type of school. It was their problem.

What else did 2020 and COVID-19 uncover about accreditation? Top of my list was not the unfortunate technology issues, but, as a striking example, that schools really believed they were doing project-based learning when they were not: this exposed a significant difference between their stated missions or high-level public statements and their actual practice of substituting final projects in place of tests. How so, exactly, and why should it matter to accreditation? The OESIS Network surveyed 153 schools in April 2020 on what they needed most for school closings when remote learning had to be deployed in the future: the results from that Report were clear in the table below:

Schools had been convincing themselves that summative projects at the end of a unit or quarter were actually project-based learning. These projects were relatively easy to accomplish without changing the curriculum or sequence or playing around with the timing of delivering standards of content. So as the school year wore on and Zoom fatigue set in with kids complaining about screen time, backaches, boredom, lack of engagement, and depression, we heard of so many school administrators that tried to bring in PBL.  Unfortunately, they gave students no real agency, no track of self-directed inquiry, and they lacked an assessment framework that looked at skills because the project was still assessed on content standards rather than cross-curricular competencies or outcomes. From an accreditation perspective, there was a gap between what schools said they did and what…

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Sanje Ratnavale

Sanje founded OESIS in 2012 and serves as the President of what has grown to become the leading network for innovation at independent schools: the acronym OESIS grew from the initial focus on Online Education Strategies for Independent Schools. He has held senior administrative positions at independent schools including Associate Head of School at a K-12 school for seven years, High School Principal for three years, and CFO for seven years. Prior to making a switch to education, Sanje spent 15 years in venture capital, investment banking, and senior C-level (CEO, COO, CFO) management. He was educated at Christ Church, Oxford University (B.A. and M.A. in Law/Jurisprudence). Sanje is based out of Santa Monica.