Update: CR's accreditation

| April 10, 2008

College of the Redwoods has had its share of mortifying news of late, including a leaky pool that's been contributing unwelcome chlorine to the watershed, the subsequent closure of the pool (which left a swim team and many students high and dry) and a major scrap over the administration's decision to replace some redwood-clad buildings with new buildings.

But one ray of hope at the college — amid the many, no doubt, that don ft get any press — is the steady progress the college has made toward satisfying those sticklers from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges,Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

Since last June, the college has been on probation status with the accreditation commission. That was a descent from the "warning" status placed on the institution after its accreditation team first visited the campus in October 2005. But the college has been slogging away at the recommendations the commission made, and after another visit last Friday by the accreditation team the outlook looked hopeful, said Kerry Mayer and John Johnston, faculty members involved in steering CR toward meeting its accreditation status, in a phone interview on Tuesday.

"I think it would be impossible to not be impressed with the progress we have made," Johnston said. Mayer added that she heard favorable, though unofficial, remarks afterward.

The team spent all day Friday perusing "mountains of evidence" the college presented to it and interviewing staff and faculty. The team fs report from this visit, containing notification of the college fs accreditation status, won ft come out until late June or the first of July.

Mayer and Johnston emphasized that the commission fs gripes have had nothing to do, actually, with the quality of instruction. "They had questions about the management of the institution," said Johnston.

Mayer also wanted to make clear that at no time has the college lost its accreditation. "Some people in the community still seem to be confused about the status of our accreditation," she said. "We remain fully accredited."

Among its recommendations, the commission wanted the college to develop a system to regularly evaluate each of its programs, from student services to instruction to counseling and more, and use the reviews to assist the administration in its yearly planning. It also wanted the college to develop a long-range educational plan, a master facilities plan, an information technology plan, and a long-range financial planning process to keep the administration abreast of changes, such as in enrollment numbers, that could affect the budget. Most of all, the commission wanted the college to develop a system for gathering data so that administrative decisions would be data-informed.

On January 31, the commission sent a letter to CR that basically said, based on its team fs visit last fall, good job but keep going.

"College of the Redwoods has accomplished significant and meaningful work toward resolution, has sought outside assistance, and is very near to completing the work," wrote Barbara Beno, president of the commission, in that letter.

Johnston said the college has put in "a tremendous amount of work" in the last few months toward meeting the recommendations. For example, he said, one thing the college has had to do is update all of its course outlines — eight-page documents that describe each course and which are required to be updated about every five years, he said. By last September, only 20 percent of them had been updated. "Now we fre up to 72 percent currency," he said.

The college also has completed 100 percent of the program reviews the commission asked for, and has established an office of institutional research to regularly gather the data — on enrollment numbers, on community needs, on employers needs, and so on — that the administration will use to make decisions. The data will be regularly plugged into the computer system and available for all to peruse.

"I think as each day passes, decisions are becoming better," said Johnston.

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