Is City College's main critic out of control?


The oversight board that's demanding big, often unpopular changes at City College carries the name of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, and it's approval is essential for any school that wants to get taken seriously. Without accreditation, there's no state funding, students can't get loans, diplomas don't count for much -- in other words, losing the ACCJA seal of approval is a death sentence.

You'd think a board so important and powerful would have a lot of oversight, be the subject of news stories, get monitored. But that's not the case with ACCJC; nobody seems to know much about it, except that its board is a fairly obscure group of academics and administrators and its president used to run Berkeley City College and it's stirred up a bit of anger in past years. The boss, Barbara Beno, seems to like chancellors and presidents a lot more than she likes governing boards -- and, from the situation at City College, it's clear that she's a big fan of top-down decision-making and doesn't approve of shared governance.

But there's a fascinating report done by the former president of the California Federation of Teachers that looks at how ACCJC compares to regional accreditation boards in other parts of the country. Martin Hittelman, an emeritus professor of Mathematics, did a numerical analysis that suggests that ACCJC is a whole lot harsher on schools than its counterparts. Check out the chart below:


As Hittelman notes:

The vast majority of reasons dealt with the adequacy of procedures, reviews of programs, services, and operations as well as whether the college adequately used assessment tools such as student learning outcomes in the evaluation of faculty. Sanctions were rarely, if ever, based on the
actual quality and adequacy of instruction received by students.

He notes:

The ACCJC Commissioners are not representative of the diversity in the California community colleges. The large urban districts such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, San Jose - Evergreen, and Long Beach are not represented on the Commission whereas Riverside City College
has two member of the Commission. The faculty of the California Community Colleges are represented by only four of the members of the Commission. The Commission also includes a number of members who were not well respected as administrators at their home campus

For example:

Dr. Sherrill Amador | Chair
Dr. Amador serves as a public member of the Commission. Dr. Amador began her service on the Commission July 1, 2004. She was a very unpopular college president at Palomar College where she received several votes of non-confidence.

Much of the report is academic (not surprisingly), but what I got out of it was that this particular agency, at this particular time, is demanding more from desperately underfunded schools than is normal, and is leaning distinctly toward the side of academia and politics that wants simple tests and hard data to quantify educational outcomes that aren't always easy to quantify.

Not saying for one second that City College is free of problems. But it's worth thinking about who the critics are and where they come from.

BTW, I contacted ACCJC for comment on the report, but haven't heard back.



so you want an oversight board for the oversignt board? Where would that ever end.

"Oversight" is politico-speak of meddling and interference.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 4:31 pm

Pathetic. The accreditation board is not the problem - CCSF's ridiculous management style is.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 5:00 pm

trollish sarcasm, and facile soundbites... that report is pretty damning. There are only 3 possibilities here:
1. The report is wrong
2. Western colleges are much, much worse than colleges anywhere else in America
3. There's something wrong with the accreditation methodology of this particular accreditation agency.

I have no reason to suspect the first two, so until proven otherwise I'm going with the third.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 6:41 pm

4th possibility. Anything the city runs turns to dhit because of ideological interference and an over-arching sense of entitlement among CCSF staff and faculty. And of course the fact that so much funding gets soaked up by employee pay and benefits, and that the inability to fire bad staff causes standards to drop.

CCSF sucks because Muni sucks and every other city "service".

Posted by Guest on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 6:53 pm

It's incredible - they do not need that many campuses.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 7:33 pm

reduce staff and student numbers, and be streamlined to a core college that can be viable going forward.

Posted by anon on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 7:55 pm

because so many of their students ride Muni, which can make a huge commute. When I attended classes in Mission and Ocean, it took me forty + minutes to get to class. For a short time, I had access to a car, and my grades shot through the roof. When I stopped being able to afford that car, my grades suffered again. My commute time doubled, getting to work became more stressful, etc.

I can't be alone in this.

Now the "instructional sites" are a different story -- but when you talk about the eight or nine main campuses, those are vital for working class people in San Francisco who juggle jobs and rely mainly on Muni. They're vital.

Posted by Joe Fitzgerald on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 3:34 pm

get to school? My father walked 4 miles to and from his school every day. Snow, wind or hail.

Posted by anonymous on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 4:49 pm

....after working a full shift at his shitty minimum wage job(s)?

Posted by RickinSF on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 11:10 pm

nobody actually addresses the points I made. The logic is rock solid. The "4th possibility" mentioned is completely beside the point I was making. I was talking about the problems with the accreditation agency, and all I hear in response is "blah blah blah city college bad blah blah blah."

No one is disputing that CCSF has its problems. Tim acknowledged that. But nor is anyone disputing the academics at CCSF. It's all about budgeting, not having enough administrators (!), stuff like that. Ok, fine. There's a budget mess. But now we're finding out that CCSF isn't the only victim of this kind of shock doctrine. And none of the other agencies around the country are doing this. So in light of this report, one has to reasonably ask the question, how much of the problem is due to CCSF, and how much is due to this agency?

When you dig a little further, seeing how Prop A money is now being diverted from its voter-mandated focus on faculty and students, to high priced consultants and the like, one has to wonder what the real agenda is.

Incidentally... I have to remark that this flurry of posts demonstrates the failure of education that's solely focused on churning out useful drones for the corporate world. This inability to think critically, and comprehend basic logic, demonstrates the need for a broad-based education.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 9:56 pm

colleges are all pretty much uniform, but that every single other one of the district oversight boards is skewed towards not causing trouble. Still, I'd lean towards your assessment.

One of the most basic stupid human tricks there is is taking full advantage of whatever power fate has put into your hands and making other people miserable with it.

Posted by lillipublicans on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 11:22 pm

It's bloated, it's staff are overpaid with ridiculous benefits, it has too many campuses and, as the lowest standard college in town, is always going to be the first to get cuts.

I'm really not too interested in the accredittation agency at all. I'm sure they are good people doing the best they can. The problem is that what they are overseeing is a mess and, rather than accept that, Tim blames the overseers and wants someone overseeing them


Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 4:38 am

Right on. That's right. Where has the Prop A funding been spent? That's the management question for me. I voted for Prop A and there is clear corruption. The real agenda is a land and assets "grab." This seems so apparent. Everyone should fear for their jobs. Students should look awry at faculty who's pay has been cut. Everyone should be suspicious. This is typical "divide and conquer." What happened to Prop A? We, the people, need a serious investigation on this matter.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 5:43 pm

In the name of Michael Goldstein, what happened to the Prop A money?

Posted by marcos on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 6:02 pm

The primary purpose of our local government is to enrich its employees at the expense of services to residents. See potholes.

Maybe voters will realize this by 2016.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 12:42 am

The Planning Department and Building Inspection works well for developers.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 6:03 pm

I'd fire them all and oursource them.

Posted by anonymous on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 6:17 pm

Besides the fact that you're wrong about SF/CCSF/Muni, you're ignoring the issue that this is a much bigger issue than SF or CCSF.

I get that you're angry, but you're not at all convincing of anything else.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 2:28 pm

4. This accredidation committee is actually doing their job, rather than glossing over instances of abuse and corruption, which school officials often attempt to hide. And Barbara Beno has the cajones to actually call them on it rather than just roll over because she is fighting to keep a high standard.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 14, 2013 @ 10:36 am

Well, I disagree. I'm glad Tim Redmond is questioning the ethics of WASC which has quickly seen to it that corporate schools get accredited, while coming down on CCSF with an overly tight deadline and complete disregard for the good that the school does in unifying the working class, minority, idealistic, and precarious in a city which leans to the rich to begin with! What I cannot stand about this WASC thing is the clear cut corruption of the Board, and the failure of administration to speak up on behalf of the long track record of GOOD that the school has done. Moreover, what about the faculty being punished in their paychecks? Where has the Prop A funding gone? Why all the building of new campuses without examination of overspending long ago? The faculty are taking the brunt of the effort to restructure the school. Think how they will suffer from loss of health care and (probably at the rate the board is going) retirement. I think City College should clean up its management, but not at the expense of Faculty and Students. Perhaps there should be some measures taken, but what we are looking at here is a neo-liberal agenda, a top down hierarchy moving in and dictatorially making changes that affect thousands of people.

I want to know where the Prop A funding that was supposed to go towards fixing the budget went? I'm a voter. Instead nearly 11% pay cut to Faculty.

Why isn't the Board answering to why the Performing Arts Complex can be finished and, yet, personnel are being shafted. Why shouldn't SF residents be able to study and get certificates inexpensively? I know so many people, immigrants, low income women, idealists, who have taken classes at CCSF and said they were great, gotten good jobs, moved on to excel in a variety of fields.


Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 5:40 pm

where the progressives want to change the rules because they are losing.

I am a big fan of city college and I believe/hope that it will pull out of this.

Posted by matlock on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 5:19 pm

The same thing happened with S&P, first they misrated MBS, then they downgraded the USG rating, now the government is fighting back with a criminal case.

Certification is only as legitimate as the legitimacy of the certifiers.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 5:31 pm

As usual the people who get themselves elected to these things plan on bigger things and just kick the can down the road.

Posted by matlock on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 5:45 pm

How dare you cast aspersions on his desire to serve on that crucial board. He's just "shifted focus" a little since he wanted to serve on the Board of Supervisors. All along he really cared about City College you know.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 7:47 pm

Thanks for reporting on this, Tim. This is the kind of thing that should be in the Chron.

And I also want to give a shout out to Tom Brown and DFA, who's been organizing around this issue. I recommend we follow his lead and contact our representatives, because this is a federal agency that gets federal funding, and they can step in and put pressure on ACCJC.

Congressional District 12: District office of Representative Nancy Pelosi at 415-556-4862
Congressional District 14: District office of Representative Jackie Speier at 650-342-0300

Posted by Greg on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 10:03 pm

Please take a long hard look at the major donors of the ACCJC, Barbara Beno, et al. Feinstein, Pelosi and their crew have a vested interest in Charter Schools and dismantling public education which explains their absolute silence on the subject.
ACCJC receives large grants from private foundations such as the Lumina Foundation which was established by the student loan industry, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and many other Right Wing Think Tanks. Do you not believe the actions of the ACCJC are not strongly influenced by these grants?

ACCJC's parent WASC has encouraged the charter school movement in the K-12 area, offering accreditation advice and special services for a fee. The service is called "Accreditation Plus" - please look in to the board (investors) and the fate of SF Flex Academy who circumvented SF's educational guidelines by registering as a "virtual" school in Elk Grove, while located in a brick and mortar in San Francisco.

We have the funding, we have completed beautiful SLO's and cut fat as requested, along with the administrators who jumped like lemmings from the school to save themselves to go elsewhere we are getting streamed lined and corrected enough to be put on probation.... but Dr. Beno why? Why was what we did not good enough? Why was our only Student Liason (student trustee) thrown from the new chancellor search?

If you want to break the union of grossly over paid civil servants that are sub-par, refusing to keep up with technology, borderline insubordinate, some barely English speaking at academic institution no-less and are completely over paid for the work that they generally don't do that the STUDENT EMPLOYEES DO for $9 per hour - I agree with you!!! I completely agree with you, but PLEASE don't do it at the expense of students and faculty who had nothing to do with the problem. Take your vengeance out in another way. You know we're doing enough to at least be put on probation and strict over sight.

Please... stop this unnecessary bullying and posturing. You're hurting young adults, elderly, under privileged and under served... Does that not affect your sleep at night?

Posted by CCSF INSIDER on Aug. 13, 2013 @ 10:34 am

Actually, she was fired from Vista College (now Berkeley City) and that is a factor in her attitude towards accreditation. You should know that her husband, Peter Crabtree, was on the team that visited SFCC and wrote the report. Talk about no oversight and a conflict of interest, it would seem to me.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 9:31 am

Personally I am leaning towards what is wrong with the other accrediation agencies. Seriously, North Central performed over 200 accredidation reviews and only found one college that needed probation? Seems like out here we have an agency that is doing its job and hold colleges feet to the fire versus looking the other way. How is that a bad thing?

Posted by Whackamole on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 11:51 am