Reform Low-Performing Schools
Special Report - May 24, 2010
The North Carolina State House Education committee approved a bill May 20 that establishes four options to adjust continually low-performing public schools in the state. The bill is intended to garner more points on the state’s application for federal Race to the Top funds for innovation in education without lifting the state’s arbitrary cap on charter schools. As we reported, North Carolina made it to the final group of states being considered for the first round of funds that were distributed by the U.S. Department of Education in April. Rep. Rick Glazier (DCumberland), sponsor of SB 704Reform Low-Performing Schools, told committee members that the proposals in his bill would provide “important strategies” and “very good policies” to modify the education of students at continually low-performing schools, as well as earn North Carolina “more points” on its application for a portion of the second round of Race to the Top funds to be awarded this summer. The four models laid out in the bill include an option to transform low-performing schools into schools very similar to charter schools, but does not go so far as to allow them to actually operate as or be called charter schools. An amendment to the bill that would have raised the cap on charter schools in North Carolina from 100 to 106 failed on party lines in the committee. President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have unequivocally stated their support for charter schools and disapproval of arbitrary caps on them, especially as an innovation tool being considered in distribution of Race to the Top funds.
SB 704 sets up four models for low-performing schools to employ in reform efforts:
- Transformation model. Under this model, the school would develop and increase “teacher and school leader effectiveness,” employ “comprehensive instructional reform strategies,” increase “learning time” and create “community-oriented schools,” and provide “operational flexibility and sustained support.
- Restart model. Under this model, the State Board of Education would authorize the local board of education to operate the school essentially as a charter school, but would leave the school and employees under the control of the local board of education, and would not “increase the maximum number of charter schools” in the state.
- Turnaround model. Under this model, the principal would be replaced if he or she has been at the school for at least three years. No more than 50 percent of the school’s staff could be rehired, “a new governance structure” would be adopted at the school, and “an instructional program aligned with the Standard Course of Study” would be implemented.
- School closure model. Under this model the school would be closed and students would be reassigned to “other, higher-achieving schools in the local school administrative unit.”
In response to concerns from some committee members that these efforts would provide fewer additional points on North Carolina’s Race to the Top application than would raising the cap or reevaluating the regulation of charter schools, Rep. Glazier repeatedly responded, “The charter school issue wasn’t really the point problem with our application.” He argued that this bill would earn the state more points than charter school measures. Copies of the Technical Review Forms used by the Department of Education to evaluate state applications reveal that five Race to the Top reviewers in two rounds of scoring deducted an average of 19 points (ranging from 12 to 35) from North Carolina’s application for its efforts to ensure “successful conditions for high-performing charter schools and other innovations.” The same reviewers deducted an average of 5.7 points (ranging from zero to 10) from North Carolina’s application for effort to turn “around the lowest-achieving schools.” Every reviewer’s comments included concern about North Carolina’s cap on charter schools, and the lack of evidence that the state provides equal or proportionate funding of charter and traditional public schools.
SB 704 is expected to be considered by the full House Monday (May 24) night. If passed, the Senate would have to give final approval for the bill to go to Governor Perdue for her signature. Applications for the second round of Race to the Top funds are due June 1.
Copyright © 2010. North Carolina Family Policy Council. All rights reserved.