by Donna Martinez
Former Senior Writer and Editor, John Locke Foundation
This morning I’ve been re-reading several Carolina Journal news stories about our state’s new Innovative School District, which is designed to intervene on behalf of children who are trapped in public schools that have serious issues with achievement. Southside Ashpole Elementary in Robeson County is the first school that will be infused with outside expertise and management for five years. As Lindsay Marchello reported earlier this year:
Southside Ashpole was chosen in November as the first school transferred to the ISD because of its low school performance and lack of growth. For the 2016-17 school year, Southside Ashpole had a grade level performance of 18.4 percent and has received an F for school performance for the past three years. More than 80 percent of students at Southside Ashpole are economically disadvantaged.
We should all be rooting for this turnaround effort. The intellectual lives of these kids is at stake. Clearly, the status quo was not working and legislators are trying a new approach in an effort to propel these kids toward a productive future with marketable skills and necessary knowledge. Here’s what really caught my eye, in a separate story, apart from the information about the Robeson County school (emphasis is mine)
Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, a board member, said the ISD is an innovative way of turning around low-performing schools. Board members shouldn’t be afraid to take a chance with it.
“If we knew the solution to this problem, we wouldn’t have 505 low performing schools,” Forest said.
This is a tragedy in the making. Think of the thousands of children who attend these 505 schools. They’re being shortchanged. This is framing the trajectory of their lives. Hats off to state lawmakers for trying a new approach. We don’t yet know if it will succeed. But at the very least, we must take action.