NEXT CHAPTER IN TAMIL LANGUAGE EDUCATION IN USA
AMERICAN TAMIL ACADEMY (ATA) AND ACCREDITATION PROCESS
Dr. Ramachandran Sivakumar
Accreditation: Is a voluntary method of quality assurance developed more than 100 years ago by American universities and secondary schools and was designed primarily to distinguish schools adhering to a set of educational standards. American Tamil Academy, a Not-for Profit tax-exempt organization was founded three years ago for the main objective of developing, facilitating and sharing of Tamil language instructional materials and effective teaching curricula. To date, 47 Tamil Schools are affiliated with ATA. All instructional resources are available at a central location. ATA published standardized textbooks and homework books for 6 levels. These books are updated and upgraded every year in the light of the feedback received from participating teachers and parents. Common semester question papers and online evaluation process are also made available. An important aspect of the standardization process currently being addressed by ATA is to create effective online resources using Moodle and other Learning Management Systems to make all students/teachers use it interactively and use the online system to electronically store all the data, lessons, exercises, audio/video support lessons and practical success stories. All these initiatives are needed to address the process of “ Accreditation “.
Accreditation examines the whole institution- the programs, the cultural context, the community of stakeholders-to determine how well the parts work together to meet the needs of students.
Accreditation is inextricably linked to institutional and educational system improvement. The process of earning and maintaining accreditation provides institutions and educational systems with clear and compelling direction for implementing changes to move toward excellence.
How students learning Tamil can benefit from Accreditation?
In most US states, foreign language learning is a requirement from grade 9 to 12 to get 1 language credit for a year. Normally the school district provides the learning opportunities for various languages at their schools based on the ethnic population and the funds available.
Alternatively any student learning any language at an accreditated language school in their sate can apply for 1 language credit. The accredited Tamil language schools instantly provide the credentials for the respective schools to apply for the language credit at their school district.
AdvanceD is a US based non-profit organization catering to the educational standards for over 100 years. 30,000 + institutions all over the world (- covering 17 million students) got accredited via AdvanceD. This is the only accreditation body that caters to all 50 states of US. AdvanceD works in collaboration with various regional accreditation councils such as NCA CASI (The North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement), NWAC (Northwest Accreditation Commission), and SACS CASI (South Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement). AdvanceD accreditation is valid for 5 years and require reevaluation and audit every 5 years.
Why AdvanceD was chosen for ATA and Tamil School Accreditation?
State level Education board accreditation which stipulates their own standards and evaluation process is not a repeatable process all over US. AdvanceD has universal acceptance and stipulates the same 5 standards and 32 indicators all over the world and is accepted in all 50 states of US. By following ATA syllabus and process (ATA – Learning Management System), 3 semesters, HW grading, common grade book and others, every participating Tamil School (in any of the 50 States) can qualify and apply for accreditation and audit by AdvanceD. AdvanceD had already accredited language schools such as the Hebrew Academy in NC, Sanskrit Institute in Ahmedabad –India and others. We anticipate our weekend Tamil schools to be no exception.
Current Status of the accreditation efforts of ATA:
ATA has implemented LMS (Learning Management Software) in Feb 2013 for effective management of five schools and their students. They are in Minneapolis, St. Louis, Houston, Charlotte and Ellicott City (MD). The schools in Minnesota, Missouri and Houston with the support of ATA have initiated the accreditation process and has formed core teams for working on this arduous task. It takes 12 + months to complete all the required compliance to get accredited.
TAGDV is working towards enlisting our Tamil Schools in the ATA Accreditation process prior to the beginning of the next academic year (2013-2014)