But this was different. This young man had a "diploma" from an
"accredited institution." He achieved this after having passed a
qualifying test which, I have learned, bears absolutely no
resemblance to high school exit exams given by our public schools.
The certification given this young man came from a place calling
itself Century Academy. It claims to be fully accredited by the
National Assn. for the Legal Support of Alternative Schools. Other
accrediting organizations, like the American Assn. of Drugless
Practitioners, or the National Private Schools Assn. -- both
institutions that "welcome students as they are" -- are popping up
all across the country to meet a growing demand for a cheap
alternative to a high school diploma. One "professional association,"
the National Independent Study Accreditation Council, openly states
that they "cannot guarantee the actual education of any individual
The push for greater choice in our children's education, which has
lately swelled the ranks of charter schools, private schools, and
home schools, has also spawned some rather ugly offspring. With the
apparent indifference of our state's education establishment, and the
outright cooperation of our junior colleges, these fly-by-night
businesses have capitalized on an educational establishment that
seems more concerned with processing students than teaching them. It
is part of a growing trend in my profession that seems to award
quantity over quality and image over substance.
The counselors at our school have made inquiries. Letters to the
State Department of Education have gone unanswered. A letter to the
president of Glendale Community College got a "thanks for your
interest" with no explanation or justification for cooperating as
they do with these organizations by honoring their "diplomas." The
one positive response has come from Congressman Adam Schiff, who was
"appalled at the situation and was going to look into it."
I am at a complete loss to understand how our state, on the one
hand, desires to sledgehammer standards into the daily lessons of our
public schools, but then, on the other, is indifferent to a gaping