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The Voice of the Black Community

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Poorly crafted education policies are failing NCís children
 
Published Friday, December 22, 2017
by Kris Nordstrom, The Policy Watch

North Carolina was once viewed as the shining light for progressive education policy in the South. State leaders — often with the support of the business community — were able to develop bipartisan support for public schools, and implement popular, effective programs.

North Carolina was among the first states to explicitly monitor the performance of student subgroups in an effort to address racial achievement gaps. The state made great strides to professionalizing the teaching force, bringing the state’s average teacher salary nearly up to the national average even as the state was forced to hire many novice teachers to keep pace with enrollment increases. In addition, North Carolina focused on developing and retaining its teaching force by investing in teacher scholarship programs and mentoring programs for beginning teachers.

Unfortunately, over the past seven years, North Carolina has lost its reputation for educational excellence. Since the Republican takeover of the General Assembly following the 2010 election, the state has become more infamous for bitter partisanship and divisiveness, as reflected in education policies. Lawmakers have passed a number of controversial, partisan measures, rapidly expanding school choice, cutting school resources, and eliminating job protections for teachers.

Less discussed, however, has been degradation in the quality of North Carolina’s education policies. General Assembly leadership has focused on replicating a number of education initiatives from other states, most lacking any research-based evidence of delivering successful results to students. The General Assembly has compounded the problems though by consistently delivering exceptionally poorly crafted versions of these initiatives.

Sadly, these controversial, poorly executed efforts have failed to deliver positive results for North Carolina’s students. Performance in our schools has suffered, particularly for the state’s low-income and minority children. So how did we get here? How is it affecting our students?

The past seven years of education policy have been dominated by a series of not just bad policies, but bad policies that are incredibly poorly crafted. This report provides a review of the major education initiatives of this seven-year period.

These problems almost certainly stem from the General Assembly’s approach to policymaking. Over the past seven years, almost all major education initiatives were moved through the legislature in a way to avoid debate and outside input. At the same time, the General Assembly has abandoned its oversight responsibilities and avoided public input from education stakeholders. The net result has been stagnant student performance, and increased achievement gaps for minority and low-income students.

One commonality of nearly all of the initiatives highlighted in this report is that they were folded into omnibus budget bills rather than moved through a deliberative committee process.

Compounding matters, the General Assembly has effectively dismantled the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee, while joint meetings of the House and Senate Education Appropriation subcommittees are becoming increasingly rare. In the past, these two committees were integral to the creation and oversight of new initiatives.

North Carolina’s teachers, Department of Public Instruction employees, and the academic community are an incredibly valuable resource that should be drawn upon to strengthen our state educational policy. Instead, these voices have increasingly been ignored.

 

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