Report Evaluates NC Education Innovation
Special Report - November 18, 2009
North Carolina’s public school system earned five Bs, one C, and one D in a November study released by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), rating states on innovation in education. The “Leaders and Laggards” report issued state-by-state report cards on education improvement based on school management, finance, staffing, data availability, pipeline to postsecondary, and technology. North Carolina earned Bs in every category, except school management, where it received a C, and finance, where it received a D.
- The school management score is based on the strength of state standardsNC’s received a C;
- whether the state sanctions low-performing schools and rewards high-performing or improving schoolsNC does both;
- the strength of the state’s charter school lawNC’s law received a D;
- and whether teachers like the way the schools are run and how much routine duties and paperwork interfere with teaching.
- The finance grade is based on whether districts control teacher payNC districts do not;
- whether teacher pay is based on performanceNC’s is not;
- online accessibility of state finance dataNC received a C;
- simplicity of state funding mechanismNC received an F;
- and whether principals have major influence over school budgets.
The report used data from federal education databases and surveys of the states to “evaluate the innovation gap in American education, identifying key problem areas and seeking promising solutions.” It defines innovation as “the process of leveraging new tools, talent, and management strategies to craft solutions that were not possible or necessary in an earlier era.” The positives, according to the AE report, are that most states have charter schools and almost every state has an alternative teacher certification program. North Carolina received special recognition for its national programs authorized to certify nontraditional administrators. Guilford County’s Mission Possible program received special mention for its innovation in teacher evaluation. However, nearly two-thirds of the state’s principals cite tenure as a barrier to removing “poor-performing or incompetent” teachers. More than 90 percent of teachers say routine duties and paperwork interfere with their teaching, and 75 percent do not like how the schools are run. North Carolina’s charter school law and alternative teacher certification both received D grades.
The major findings of the study overall are:
- Rigid education bureaucracies impede quality schooling.
- State finance systems are opaque, inefficient, and undermine innovation.
- The teacher pipeline fails to provide a diverse pool of high-quality educators.
- Teacher evaluations are not based on performance.
- Major barriers exist to the removal of poor-performing teachers.
- The outcome of state technology spending is unknown.
- State data systems provide limited information on school operations and outcomes.
- Schools provide too little access to college-level coursework.
- States neglect to implement student-based funding systems.
- States lack a culture of education advocacy.
The report recommends introducing more flexibility into the public school system by empowering schools and principals, developing student-based funding policies, reinventing education management, rethinking the school schedule. It also suggests better accountability practices to hold individuals and organizations responsible for performance through reforming teacher pay and rewards to reflect student achievement. The public school monopoly could be assuaged by supporting charter schools and other public school choice initiatives, developing dual-enrollment and early college programs to bring down the barriers between high school and college, and broadening the pool of potential teachers by supporting alternative certification programs. Finally, the report argues that common academic standards between states linked to rigorous assessments, state reform organizations, and entrepreneurial organizations like Teach for America and Wireless Generation can create the stronger reform environment needed to encourage innovative changes in a stagnant public education system.
"The findings of the AEI study about the North Carolina education system come as no surprise for those who are familliar with our bureaucracy," said Bill Brooks, president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council. "It is evident that North Carolina needs more transparency and more innovation, particularly in the area of education reform. When our charter school law was passed in 1996, it was considered one of the best laws in the country. Now we are close to failing, and education bureaucrats keep adding more restrictions, year after year."
Copyright © 2009. North Carolina Family Policy Council. All rights reserved.