CFT president Joshua Pechthalt, left, testified at the NACIQI meeting in Washington DC, along with Tim Killikelly and Alisa Messer. They were joined in this photo by AFT president Randi Weingarten, whose staff provided support while the delegation of Californians visited congressional offices seeking the delisting of ACCJC.
December 17, 2015—Yesterday CFT president Joshua Pechthalt, staff member Jessica Ulstad, former CFT president Marty Hittelman, and faculty, students and trustees from City College of San Francisco spoke before the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI), which oversees regional accreditors such as the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC).
The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, which oversees accreditation of community colleges in California, has been troubled by allegations for years that its methods are arbitrary and punitive. Faculty have charged that the ACCJC, instead of helping to improve the delivery of education, diverts massive amounts of attention, time, taxpayer dollars and resources away from the classroom to “compliance,” much of which has little, if anything, to do with education. The Commission’s work is also, they say, responsible for deteriorating relations between faculty and administrators fearful of ACCJC sanctions, which occur at a startlingly higher rate here than in regions overseen by other accreditation agencies.
Perhaps the most egregious example of the inconsistent and disparate ways ACCJC treats colleges is a comparison between City College of San Francisco and Heald College. The agency broke the law in its overzealous attempt to close an excellent school (CCSF), while looking the other way as a lawbreaking school (Heald, operated by Corinthian) preyed on thousands of students. Both instances ended with similar catastrophic results: thousands of poor and working class students were denied an education.
In 2013 the CFT challenged the Commission in a formal process known as “third party comment,” in which interested parties can file a complaint with the commission and with the U.S. Department of Education. CFT also filed suit, seeking an injunction to keep City College of San Francisco open, as did the City Attorney of San Francisco. An injunction was granted on January 2, 2014. The trial ended with a February, 2015 Superior Court decision affirming that ACCJC broke four laws in denying CCSF due process rights during accreditation review. The judge ordered ACCJC to offer CCSF another opportunity to respond to its review, this time with transparency. Since then, reform legislation is moving through the state legislature; the state Chancellor's task force report recommended that California find a new accreditor; the Board of Governors adopted the report and is committed to having a plan in place by March 2016; and the Department of Education body that oversees ACCJC extended its authority to accredit by just six months, pending resolution of numberous compliance issues.
Below are links to stories and documents that explain what CFT and its locals—and a growing number of other organizations, elected officials and interested observers like the State Auditor and the Community College Board of Governors—are doing to change the ACCJC’s behavior, and what the Commission has been doing (or not doing) in response.
Accrediting Commission Again Denies Due Process, August 6, 2015
Third party comments, amendments, and lawsuit
CFT members and friends outside the California Community College Board of Governors meeting on September 21 in Sacramento, where the Board voted to tell the US Department of Education that California needs a new accreditor
September 22, 2015—Yesterday the California Community College Board of Governors (BOG) directed State Community Chancellor Brice Harris to send his Accreditation Task Force's Report, issued two weeks ago, to the United States Department of Education (DOE). The Report, citing a multitude of failures by the current California community college accreditor, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, recommends that California replace the ACCJC with a new agency.
August 28, 2015—Today the Community College Chancellor released his long awaited Accreditation Task Force report, and the news was not good for the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC). Bottom line: the task force, a blue ribbon group representing faculty, administrators, elected officials and other stakeholders, is recommending that the ACCJC be replaced by another accrediting agency.
January 16, 2015—Today the California Federation of Teachers hosted a press teleconference call to discuss Superior Court Judge Curtis Karnow’s ruling in “The People vs. ACCJC.” Participating were CFT president Joshua Pechthalt, Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), AFT Local 2121 president Tim Killikelly, and Shanell Williams, Student Trustee at City College of San Francisco. Here are highlights.
In a vindication of the CFT’s longstanding contention that the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) acted illegally in its decision to terminate City College of San Francisco’s accreditation, San Francisco Superior Court judge Curtis Karnow issued his ruling today in “The People vs. ACCJC.”
San Francisco—After kicking off the day with a spirited early morning demonstration outside the San Francisco Superior Court building, about a hundred City College of San Francisco faculty, students and community supporters moved en masse into the courthouse to attend the opening day of the trial to keep the college open.
They heard Deputy City Attorney Yvonne Mere deliver the opening argument. She began simply, with “This case is about fairness.” For the next half hour she told Judge Curtis Karnow that the People’s case would prove three things: that the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges violated federal regulations and their own policies when it failed to control for conflicts of interest; it failed to create site review teams that were adequately balanced with academics and administrators; and it failed to give due process to City College.
She also noted that the ACCJC acted in violation of California law when it failed to follow the law and its own procedures; that it deprived CCSF of the opportunity to participate in a process of peer review; and that it acted unfairly when it chose to evaluate CCSF while embroiled with the college in a very public debate over the future of the mission of community colleges in California.