History of Georgia Accrediting Commission, Inc.

Chancellor Walter B. Hill of the University of Georgia employed Dr. Joseph S. Stewart as Professor of Secondary Education on July 1,1903. He was employed to work with the high schools of Georgia to bring about a better relationship between the high schools and the University of Georgia. This was the beginning of the present Georgia Accrediting Commission. Professor Stewart published a manual for high schools during the 1903-1904 school year and accepted applications from high schools during that year. He published the first list of accredited schools in 1904.

Dr. Stewart’s work was first financed by George Foster Peabody, then the General Education Board, and later by the University of Georgia. When Dr. Stewart started his work, he found four four-year public high schools in the state and seven four-year private high schools in the state. Literally, the development of high schools in the state of Georgia and the Georgia Accrediting Commission parallel each other at every step of the way.

The development of the modern public high school in Georgia began with the employment of Dr. Stewart by the University of Georgia and parallels his continuous and distinguished service in this area from 1903 to his death in 1934. Some of his outstanding accomplishments are the accrediting process for Georgia high schools, the organization of the Georgia High School Association, (then known as District High School Associations), leadership in the organization of the Secondary Commission of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the organizing and editing of the Georgia High School Quarterly, leadership in the fight for legislation for tax-supported high schools, and the long-time leadership for improved curriculum and organization of high schools.

In 1920 Chancellor Barrow of the University of Georgia increased the size and representation of the Accrediting Committee. The Committee in 1921 was Dr. Joseph S. Stewart, Chairman, University of Georgia; W. D. Hooper, University of Georgia; J. R. Fain, State College of Agriculture, Athens; T. H. Jack, College Association, Emory; W. E. Farrar, College Association, Mercer; H. H. Caldwell, College Association, Georgia Tech and E. A. Pound, Georgia Department of Education. For a number of years Professor Stewart and Mr. Pound cooperated in visiting schools. Prior to this time, Professor Stewart had been the only visitor and had come to be called the High School Inspector. For 30 years (1904 to his death in 1934) Dr. Stewart was Chairman of the Committee and served as Professor of Secondary Education at the University of Georgia. In 1934 the group organized as the Georgia High School Accrediting Commission with a constitution. The constitution stated four members were to be from the Georgia College Association, four members from the Georgia High School Association, and the High School Supervisor from the State Department of Education, was to serve as an ex-officio member.

After the death of Dr. Stewart, the office remained in Athens until 1941. For three years Mr. T. J. Dempsey, Jr., State High School Supervisor in the State Department of Education, was the Secretary of the Georgia High School Accrediting Commission. In 1937 Mr. J. Harold Saxon became the University High School Inspector, the title held by Dr. Stewart, and Secretary of the Georgia High School Accrediting Commission. In 1941 the office was moved to the Georgia Department of Education in Atlanta with Mr. W. E. Pafford serving as Executive Director of the Georgia High School Accrediting Commission. Mr. Pafford was the Executive Secretary until his retirement from the State Department of Education in 1964. Dr. H. S. Shearouse, staff member of the State Department of Education, then became Executive Secretary until his retirement in 1967. Mr. J. A. Mize, a staff member of the State Department of Education became Executive Secretary in 1967 and continued in that position until the office was moved from the State Department of Education in 1969. Dr. H. S. Shearouse again became Executive Secretary in 1969 with the office being located at Springfield. Dr. Shearouse served until July 1977, at which time Mr. J. A. Mize became Executive Secretary and the office was moved to Metter. On July 1, 1985 Dr. John Hulsey, Jr., School of Education, Georgia Southern College, succeeded Mr. J. A. Mize, and the office was moved to the campus of Georgia Southern College, Statesboro. On July 1, 1989 Dr. Kenneth M. Matthews, College of Education, the University of Georgia, was appointed as Executive Director and the office was moved to Athens.
From the beginning until 1941, the Bulletin, setting forth the rules, regulations, and standards, together with the approved list of accredited schools, was a bulletin of the University of Georgia. In 1941 it became the Official Bulletin of the Georgia High School Accrediting Commission without relationship to any institution. In 1944 the organization changed its name to the Georgia Accrediting Commission and expanded the membership on the Board of Directors to include two representatives from elementary schools, to be selected by the Elementary School Principals Association. A list of standard elementary schools was published for the next two years. In 1947 the elementary schools were listed as accredited schools. In 1974 the Commission began accrediting kindergartens. The membership of the Commission has been changed several times, always to make broader representation from the professional elements within the state.

In 1986, the Commission accredited Educational Agencies With Special Purposes for the first time. In September of 1989 the Board of Directors authorized Dr. Kenneth M. Matthews to explore the possibility of accrediting prekindergarten educational programs. During the 1989-1990 school year field-tests standards were developed. The standards were field-tested during the 1990-1991 school year. In September of 1991 the standards were approved and the first five prekindergarten programs were accredited by the Commission. In response to the growing number of students involved in home schooling and other forms of independent study the Commission began accrediting Non-Traditional Educational Centers in 2005 to serve students who engage part or full-time in independent study.

After successfully leading the Commission through 13 years of growth and change Dr. Kenneth M. Matthews chose to retire in June of 2002.  On July 1, 2002 Dr. Carvin L. Brown, Professor Emeritus, University of Georgia assumed the role of Executive Director.

Beginning in August of 2005 the Commission accredited Non-Traditional Educational Centers. Among other requirements, students must spend at least 15 percent of their learning time in independent study for a center to be accredited by the Commission. The centers were formerly members of the Accrediting Commission for Independent Study, an accrediting agency initiated by Dr. Starr Miller, President Emeritus of Brewton-Parker College.

The Georgia Accrediting Commission has provided and continues to provide leadership for education in Georgia. The accrediting process stimulates local schools and school districts to provide better and safer physical facilities and to improve the qualifications of staff members, teaching conditions, and curriculum. It also provides a valid means of judging the quality of schools. As a result, the academic credits of students who transfer between accredited schools can be accepted without special examination. Accreditation by the Georgia Accrediting Commission has always been a way of recognizing schools with good educational programs. Its standards continue to serve as guides for those who want to develop good programs.