Thanks to our friend the Friar, here’s the latest on the American Academy for Liberal Education. Since the article in The Chronicle is only available temporarily, I’m quoting the principal paragraphs directly:
Education Secretary Margaret Spellings has agreed to revoke the key accreditation authority of the American Academy for Liberal Education, upholding the recommendation of a federal advisory body that criticized the academy’s enforcement of academic standards.
The decision bars the academy from accrediting any new institutions or programs, effective July 10. Colleges need accreditation from organizations like the academy for their students to remain eligible for federally guaranteed student loans.
Ms. Spellings, in a letter dated April 30 but released by the department only on Thursday, said she agreed with the department’s National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity that the American Academy for Liberal Education had repeatedly failed to meet federal operating guidelines established in 1965.
"The AALE has been cited consistently for either not having clear expectations or standards with respect to measuring student outcomes, or not collecting and reviewing data on how institutions it accredits measure student outcomes according to these policies," the secretary wrote in the letter.
The academy, however, has complained that it is being punished for failing to meet new standards for measuring student outcomes that the department has not yet enshrined in policy.
[An AALE representative said that] the penalty stems from the department’s efforts to begin imposing new requirements on the assessment of student outcomes without having finished the process of drafting them and establishing regulations for carrying them out.
The academy has an especially difficult challenge because the institutions it accredits require more-subjective measures of college success, [George Mason University Professor and AAALE Board member Lee] Fritschler said.
That factor, combined with the organization’s small size, made the academy an easy target for Ms. Spellings and the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, he said.
To cite an organization for not enforcing standards the Department itself hasn’t yet developed is, of course, absolutely ridiculous. If I had to speculate on what’s really behind it (and having read the tedious transcript of a contentious meeting of the NACIQI at which AAL’s case came up), I’d say that relations between the illiberal educators and educrats on NACIQI and the AALE have not been good for quite some time. This is a twofer, as far as the former are concerned: they send a message to the accreditors they can’t afford to get rid of, and get rid of one they don’t much like.
To be sure, AALE could be reinstated, and I think they are trying to figure out what what satisfy the DoE (as, of course, is the DoE). What is necessary, I think, is pressure on the Department and on the Bush Administration from folks who support the mission of the AALE, which is to uphold something like the traditional liberal arts curriculum, and to do so with a rigor that isn’t readily susceptible to quantification.