JLF’s Mitch Kokai weighs in for Carolina Journal‘s Daily Journal:

Amid the hoopla surrounding educational inputs in North Carolina, it’s nice to hear some state lawmakers focusing attention on educational outcomes.

A couple of outcome-focused bills caught this observer’s attention last week. Those bills attracted far less scrutiny from reporters and pundits than the May 1 teacher walkout and march through downtown Raleigh.

That walkout focused almost exclusively on inputs. Teachers demanded higher pay, more benefits, and more funding for support staff. (They also called for Medicaid expansion. Given that the expansion population consists primarily of working-age, able-bodied, childless adults, it’s not clear whether the Medicaid demand even counts as an education input.)

House Bill 895 would create a new Opportunity Gap Task Force. The 14-member group would study the “significant disparity in the academic performance and postsecondary readiness” of students based on “races, ethnicities, socioeconomic statuses, genders, English-language proficiencies, and urban, rural, or suburban” settings.

Among the dozen items the group would consider: teachers’ professional development, parental involvement, rigorous coursework, and disciplinary disparities. The group would start work no later than September. It would produce a report by December 2020. That report would include a plan for reducing opportunity gaps by 2030.

“Right now in our public schools, 40% of African-American students are on grade level or proficient,” said Rep. Cecil Brockman, D-Guilford, a co-sponsor of H.B. 895.

Disparities extend beyond racial groups. “In total, of all our counties, 58% of students from grades three through eight are proficient,” Brockman said. “In our [poorest] Tier 1 counties, only 51 percent of our students are successful. That, I think, really speaks to why we really need this.”

Horn’s H.B. 714 would require the State Board of Education to determine how N.C. schools can transition to a “competency-based assessment and teaching model for all elementary and secondary students.” The board would deliver a report by May 2020.

Some districts and some states already pursue this goal, Horn said. “It’s time for us to look at kids themselves, at the delivery of education to a child in a way that works for each and every child.”

Both Horn’s bill and the proposed Opportunity Gap Task Force cleared the full House Thursday with little debate. It’s refreshing that lawmakers are willing to “look at kids themselves,” not just at educational inputs.

More here.