RALEIGH – The Triangle’s largest public school districts earn disappointing grades for “parent-friendliness,” according to a new John Locke Foundation Spotlight report. Wake County schools pick up a C grade, while Durham. earns an F.
No Triangle school district earns a higher grade than the C+ assigned to Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools. The report assigns a C to Chatham and Person public schools, and a C- grade to Johnston County public schools. Franklin and Orange schools earn D+ grades, while Granville schools earn a D. The Vance County school system matches Durham’s F grade. The report ranks Durham No. 111 and Vance dead last among the state’s 115 school systems.
The report is based on a new assessment of public school administration, teachers, safety, and student performance. “With no threat of losing clientele to competitors, many schools and school districts behave like the monopolies they are,” said report author Terry Stoops, JLF Education Policy Analyst. “These school districts focus on strengthening the organization’s position and goals, rather than meeting the needs of students and parents.”
No school districts earn an A grade, and just 19 of North Carolina’s 115 school districts earn B grades in Stoops’ assessment. The Polk and Cherokee county school districts earn the only B+ grades in the state. Most districts earn C’s, while 27 districts earn D’s and five earn F’s.
In a district-by-district comparison, Stoops found differences based on geography and school district size. “School districts in western North Carolina generally fared well in the ‘parent-friendly’ rankings, with eight of the top 10 districts being located in the west,” he said. “In contrast, districts in the Triad, Triangle, Charlotte, and northeastern North Carolina fared poorly.”
“In general, smaller school districts proved to be more parent-friendly than large school districts,” Stoops added. “Most of the top-performing school districts in this assessment enroll between 1,000 and 5,000 students.”
The rankings are based on 11 different measures in the four categories of school administration, teachers, safety, and performance. The measures include end-of-grade reading and math scores, four-year graduation rates, and school crime statistics. Also included are statistics linked to teacher turnover and teaching vacancies, the percentage of each school system’s staff devoted to jobs outside classroom teaching, and results of a Teacher Working Conditions survey.
Stoops converted the numbers into letter grades. He assigned each school district four individual-category letter grades and an average final grade. “This report develops a system that’s designed to show the extent to which North Carolina’s school districts provide children a sound, basic education in a stable and safe environment that is responsive to the needs of children and concerns of parents.”
Further research could help school leaders learn more about the steps they can take to become more parent-friendly, Stoops said. “We need to know more before we can pinpoint the combination of factors that contribute to success, but the school districts that fared well in this ranking were generally small districts with stable, high-performing teaching staffs.”
A parent-friendly organization is important, Stoops said. “One need not look further than the low regard that many teachers and administrators have toward parents to find evidence of an organization-first mentality,” he said. “Genuine accountability to parents begins with school choice.”
Terry Stoops’ Spotlight report, “The Parental Prerogative: How ‘parent-friendly’ are school districts in North Carolina?” is available at the JLF Web site. For more information, please contact Stoops at (919) 828-3876 or [email protected]. To arrange an interview, contact Mitch Kokai at (919) 306-8736 or [email protected].