How excellent is the Excellent Public Schools Act?
By Dr. Terry Stoops
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Last week, the Republican leadership in the North Carolina
details of the Excellent Public Schools Act.
Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, a primary sponsor of the bill,
described it as "a bold new plan that puts our students first and equips
them with skills needed to succeed in the classroom and in their future careers." This week's CommenTerry features my review of the plan.
Federalist Society's Triangle Lawyers Chapter and the John Locke Foundation
cordially invite you to a panel discussion on North Carolina's Marriage
Amendment on May 3 at the Cardinal Club in downtown Raleigh. The event will begin with a reception at 5:30
p.m. followed by the panel discussion at 6:30 p.m. Speakers include Dr. Michael Munger, Duke University; Katharine Parker, ACLU of North
Carolina; Tammy Fitzgerald, NC Values Coalition; and
Ken Klukowski, Center for
Religious Liberty. To register, click here.
- The Civitas campaign training
program is focused on giving participants the knowledge and practical skills
they will need to build a winning campaign from the ground up. Whether you are
interested in managing a campaign, running for office, or simply in how
campaigns work, the class will lay out the groundwork for an effective campaign
strategy. The training session will be
held on May 17 from 1:00 to 6:00 PM at the Brownstone Doubletree Hotel in downtown Raleigh. To register, click here.
- The North Carolina History Project would like educators and
homeschool parents to submit lesson plans suitable for middle and high school
courses in North Carolina history.
Please provide links to NC History Project encyclopedia articles and
other primary and secondary source material, if possible. Go to the NC History Project website for further information.
- JLF's research newsletter archive. It's almost
as good as the Steelers drafting Stanford OG David DeCastro in the first round
of the NFL Draft. Almost.
week, Senate Republicans released
details of Senate
Bill 795: The Excellent Public Schools Act. Modeled after successful
K-12 school reform efforts in Florida, The Excellent Public Schools Act is an
ambitious, 12-part education reform package that aspires to raise student
achievement by strengthening reading instruction in the early grades,
bolstering accountability, and improving teacher quality.
legislation includes the following components:
- Make changes to improve K-3 literacy;
- Provide literacy volunteer leave time;
- Assign school performance grades;
- Maximize instructional time;
- Adjust school calendar start and end dates;
- Fund five additional instructional days within the existing
- Establish an NC Teacher Corps;
- Strengthen teacher licensure requirements;
- Provide proof of state-funded liability insurance;
- Establish plans for pay for excellence;
- End tenure; and
- Eliminate public financing for the office of superintendent
of public instruction.
Consistent with reforms initiated last year, the bill would
focus on reading instruction in the early grades. The two primary changes to reading instruction
in grades K-3 include adding new reading-intensive instruction for students who
struggle with reading and ending social promotion of students who cannot read
at grade level by the end of third grade.
North Carolinians should welcome efforts to improve early
literacy, but I question whether colleges and universities prepare elementary
teachers to provide sound reading instruction.
I also have concerns about the plan to end social promotion. Polls indicate that
there is support for the idea, but the research literature is less definitive. While some students benefit from repeating a
grade, retention may introduce academic and social struggles for others. To their credit, Senate Republicans designed
a bill that has a strong focus on remediating, not punishing, those who are
In an effort to improve teacher quality, the legislation would
establish the North Carolina Teacher Corps program. Republicans modeled the initiative after the successful
Teach for American program, which recruits outstanding college graduates to
teach in low-income schools. The authors
of the bill deserve kudos for this proposal.
doubt, the most controversial part of the plan would require school districts
to employ teachers on annual contracts. Although some private and charter
schools do this now, traditional public schools maintain a "tenure"
or "career status" policy that makes it difficult for districts to
fire ineffective teachers. An annual
contract system would eliminate this time-honored practice. In addition, the legislation would add due
process protections for teachers who do not have their contracts renewed by their
school districts. On the other hand,
North Carolina's best teachers would qualify for bonus payments under guidelines
established by their local school boards.
A number of components
of the plan -- merit pay, alternative paths to teacher certification, and increasing transparency
by assigning A-to-F performance grades for schools -- are
ideas that have been promoted by the John Locke Foundation for many years. (In the spirit of assigning grades to
inanimate objects, The Excellent Public Schools Act earns a solid B grade from
yours truly.) On the other hand, I do
not recommend that the General Assembly provide funds for an additional five days of
because the expenditure is not a productive use of taxpayer dollars.
The Senate proposal has a long way to go before it becomes
law. After members of the General
Assembly introduce substantive legislation, they debate and change it several
times before each legislative chamber conducts a final vote. It is unlikely that the upcoming "short"
legislative session will provide enough time for lawmakers to complete this
time consuming process. In this way, I
suspect that a final version of the Excellent Public Schools Act will not reach
the governor's desk until 2013. Surely,
Republican legislators hope that the person occupying that desk will be one of
it is time for a Billy
Who's with me?
Based on our current state standards, 39.3% of North Carolina's
third graders are reading below grade-level on the North Carolina End-of-Grade
(EOG) Test of Reading Comprehension -- Grade 3. That percentage jumps to 53.5% for
third graders receiving free/reduced lunch.
- Excellent Public
Schools Act brochure, April 2012, p. 4
I would like to invite all readers
to submit announcements, as well as their personal insights, anecdotes,
concerns, and observations about the state of education in North Carolina. I will publish selected submissions in future
editions of the newsletter. Anonymity
will be honored. For additional
information or to send a submission, email Terry at email@example.com.
Education Acronym of the Week
TEPSA -- The Excellent
Public Schools Act
Quotes of the Week
"In order to fix our state's broken education system,
we must stop constantly reaching for our checkbook and focus on reforming our
playbook. If bigger budgets could buy
positive results, then North Carolina's achievement scores and graduation rates
would have improved years ago. Rather than continue to rely on a failed
tax-and-spend model, we need a bold new plan that puts our students first and
equips them with skills needed to succeed in the classroom and in their future
careers. And we must reward our most effective teachers so they can
continue to inspire our children to achieve their best. We are
enthusiastic about our education reforms and look forward to working across the
aisle to achieve better results for our kids."
- Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Rockingham)
Introduces Major Education Reform Package
Click here for the Education
Thursday, May. 3rd, 2012 at 5:30 p.m.
A Panel Discussion on North Carolina's Marriage Amendment
with our special guests Dr. Michael Munger, Chair, Department of Political Science, Duke UniversityKatharine Parker, Legal Director, ACLU of North CarolinaTammy Fitzgerald, Executive Director, NC Values CoalitionKen Klukowski, Director, Center for Religious Liberty,
North Carolina's Proposed Marriage Amendment
Monday, May. 7th, 2012 at 12:00 PM, Noon
A meeting of the Shaftesbury Society
with our special guest Warren Bingham
George Washington's Southern Tour of 1791
Tuesday, May. 15th, 2012 at Midnight
2012 Spirit of Inquiry Award
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