The Rev. William F. Maestri, who became the superintendent of schools for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans in August, has taken the unusual step of requiring all 83 elementary schools in the archdiocese to become accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, or SACS.
“We’re seeking more accountability, because we believe accountability is a good thing,” Father Maestri said. “We are already accountable to the people who send their children to these schools and to the church. We also want to be professionally accountable.”
The 23 high schools of the New Orleans Archdiocese have been accredited by the Decatur, Ga.-based SACS for years. Also, since 1999, 17 elementary schools in the archdiocese have voluntarily sought and received the association’s stamp of approval.
But Father Maestri is now requiring all Catholic elementary schools within his purview to start the accreditation process. If they fail, they will have to reapply.
Father Maestri said that while it’s not unusual for individual Catholic schools to get accredited, it is uncommon for a diocese to require accreditation for all of its schools. Catholic schools in the New Orleans Archdiocese enroll 50,000 students.
To become accredited, a school must meet SACS standards, have a plan for continuous school improvement, and submit to quality-assurance reviews, said Wayne Strain, a state director for Louisiana schools for the accrediting association, which is one of six regional accrediting agencies in the United States.
The agency’s standards cover curriculum and instruction as well as other areas, such as financial management, libraries, and student support services.
Students who attend accredited schools can easily transfer from one accredited school to another without losing any course credits, Mr. Strain said.
The association collects dues of $500 a year for an elementary school that has begun the process of accreditation or continues to receive the agency’s services.
A version of this article appeared in the February 02, 2005 edition of Education Week