« Supreme Court Action Today - Government-Attorney Privilege, Rule 10b-5 Actions, and Conflicts of Interest | Main | Opening: Librarian/Research Specialist, Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren s.c., Milwaukee »
June 13, 2011
An Intervention: ABA Violates 17 Department of Education Accreditation Regulations
The National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity advises the Secretary of Education on matters related to accreditation and to the eligibility and certification process for institutions of higher education. Last week, the Committee reviewed 10 agencies, including the American Bar Association. The ABA did not fare well. The Committee, in its report, found that the ABA was out of compliance with 17 regulations. The regulations are published at 35 C.F.R. 602.
Wait! Seventeen violations! Really? And the ABA has the nerve to be making changes to the accreditation standards for law schools when they are not even in compliance themselves. Somehow, this seems wrong to me. Maybe it does to the Department of Education too.
The ABA Standards Review Committee has been butting heads with the vast majority of law school faculties for two years regarding their controversial changes to the job security of faculties. There is little evidence from the field that these changes are needed to improve the education of our students. Evidence offered actually points to the contrary; however, heedless of the advice from legal educators around the country, the Review Committee pushes forward with its reforms. Yet, the ABA cannot even manage itself. I think their time and energy should be spent on cleaning house or their proposed changes will not mean a thing anyway. But, back to the violations.
The violations are noted below:
The ABA needs to
- adopt the proposed changes to its internal operating procedures regarding records retention and demonstrate with documentary evidence that it has implemented amended records procedures
- demonstrate its expectation regarding job placement data that it collects
- adopt a record of student complaints standard and demonstrate with supporting documentation that it has implemented the standard in its evaluation of law schools
- demonstrate that its evaluation of law schools includes an assessment of the impact student loan default rate data, or the results of financial or compliance audits or program reviews on its accreditation decision
- adopt the revisions to Standard 306 and/or the interpretations to address student identity verifications as required by this criterion. In addition, the agency will need to demonstrate that it has implemented the revisions with supporting documentation (306 is distance education)
- demonstrate that it has reviewed and taken follow-up action, as appropriate, on its review of the annual reports and the actions it requires of its programs
- demonstrate that the council adopted the proposed changes to the standards and rules consistent with its proposal. In addition, it will need to demonstrate with supporting documentation that it has implemented the changes (602.22(a)(2)(i-vii))
- demonstrate that the council adopted the proposed changes to the standards and rules consistent with its proposals. In addition, it will need to demonstrate with supporting documentation that it has implemented the changes (602.22(a)(2)(ix-x))
- adopt revisions to its standards and rules regarding subsctantive changes in which the effective date is not retroactive. It must demonstrate implementation with supporting documentation
- demonstrate with supporting documentation that it has implemented its policy to solicit and consider third party comments from the public as part of the accreditation review and decision-making
- demonstrate that it has implemented the proposed revisions after adoption by the council in June 2011
- demonstrate that it has in place a process and guidance for the submission of a teach-out plan and protocol that includes criteria established by the agency, by which it reviews and on which it bases its approval as required by this criterion
- demonstrate that it has developed and effectively implemented procedures for reviewing (during each comprehensive review) its requirements regarding transfer of credit
- demonstrate that it has sent positive deicions notifications to all of the recipients listed in 602.26(a)
- demonstrate that it has sent negative deicions notifications to all of the recipients listed in 602.26(b)
- provide evidence that it has implemented the requirement to provide the public with written notice within 24 hours after it notifies the school of the negative accreditation decision
- provide evidence of its notice to teh Department [of Education] with teh affected program's comments or in the alternative, notice that the affected party had been offered the opportunity to provide official comments
The ABA must submit a report within 12 months to show that they have corrected the compliance issues noted above. I presume that the ABA will be stripped of its authority to accredit and evaluate law schools if it does not comply. Tough love.
In the Executive Summary of the Report, each violation is discussed in about a page or two and provide the relevant details. For example, with respect to issue number 2 above, the analysts point out that the ABA adopted standard 301 and interprative note 301-3 which considers the "rigor of the academic program, including assessment of student performance and bar passage rates of its graduates." The ABA and its standards clearly state that a school failing to meet the bar passage requirements in the standards will be considered out of compliance with the accreditation standards. The Staff Determination on this point finds that the ABA does not provide information on the schools' expectation for placement or the criteria by which it evaluates a school's performance in this area. And so, it requires it to take steps to bring itself in compliance with the Staff Determination.
At least with this one violation, there has already been some progress as reported by Law School Transparency:
The ABA Council on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar completed an enormous step this morning towards helping prospective law students make informed decisions. The Council, which is the sole accrediting body for U.S. law schools, unanimously approved the Questionnaire Committee’s recommended procedures for the improved collection and sharing of employment data. The recommendation is based on last December’s Questionnaire Committee hearing, at which interested parties, including LST’s executive director, presented on the issue of consumer information transparency.
You can review the now-approved recommendation here (pages 22–28).
There is also an interesting article in the Chronicle of Higher Education on the report. In that article, the author Eric Kelderman quotes some Committee Members who were opposed to continue the ABA's recognition as an accrediting body.
I hope that the ABA takes their slap constructively. They do not enforce their current policies and prefer to change them to new standards against the advice from the experts in the schools. They seem to encourage the establshment of any new school without regard for the ability of that school to provide a realistic job picture in the face of enourmous student debt, or sanction existing schools for ultra large class sizes and incredibly high tuition. The ABA should use this opportunity to get themselves in order and be grateful for this intervention. (VS)