EDUCATION WEEK LAUDS NORTH CAROLINA'S ACCOUNTABILITY EFFORTS
In Education Week's third annual 50-state report card on public education, North Carolina was recognized as just one of two states (joined by Texas) as coming the closest to having all the components of a complete accountability system. North Carolina and Texas were also noted as the two states posting the "largest average gains in student test scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) between 1990 and 1996."
The 206-page report, Quality Counts '99: Rewarding Results, Punishing Failure, attributes North Carolina's accountability program, the ABCs of Public Education, with sparking the rise in student achievement throughout the state and assisting the state's lowest performing schools to move forward. The ABCs program was implemented in grades K-8 in 1996-97 and in grades 9-12 in 1997-98.
State Board of Education Chairman Phillip J. Kirk Jr. said the report verifies that North Carolina is leading the nation in its efforts to hold schools accountable for student learning. "We are pioneers in school accountability in the nation. It speaks well for North Carolina that we recognized the need for this early and found the courage to implement a program that rewards growth and achievement and provides realistic help for the schools that need it most."
State Superintendent Mike Ward said, "We have seen all of our schools make significant academic growth in just the two years the program has been in place. Our classrooms are focused like never before and, as a result, our children are achieving."
In regards to school accountability, Education Week's report reviewed North Carolina's accountability program to see if it contained what its editors deemed the six essential steps necessary for building a comprehensive accountability system: assessment of a student's achievement; report cards noting the performance of individual schools; public rating of schools; performance rewards; available assistance; and sanctions for failing schools. North Carolina is one of only five states that have all the components.
"Our end-of-grade/end-of-course tests track academic growth. Every school's performance on these tests is available to parents and other people who are interested through the Department of Public Instruction or on our web site, www.ncpublicschools.org. Teachers and other eligible staff at schools that meet and/or exceed expected growth receive a monetary bonus. Unfortunately, on the reverse end of the spectrum, we have had to recommend dismissals of two teachers and removal of some administrative staff from low-performing schools. North Carolina has been the first state willing to take these steps. Taking all this into consideration, it really doesn't surprise me that our state leads the nation in school accountability," Ward said.
Dr. Jay Robinson, past superintendent of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System and past chair of the North Carolina State Board of Education, was highlighted in Education Week for his support of rewards as a motivational factor. Robinson was chair of the State Board when the ABCs model was first developed and implemented. While superintendent of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System, Dr. Robinson persuaded a local amusement park to donate passes which he pledged to give to students who finished school with perfect attendance. He said that almost 12,000 students finished the year with perfect attendance. He stated in the article that he felt educators could be similarly motivated. Given the fact that the state spent $117 million in bonuses for the 1997-98 ABCs program, he was right. North Carolina was noted in the report for leading the nation in investing in school-based performance incentives.
Also highlighted in Education Week's report was State Superintendent Mike Ward for his research on teacher tenure. As a doctoral student, Ward conducted a study on teacher tenure and dismissal to determine if there was a correlation between the number of dismissals based upon whether or not a teacher had tenure. Ward said, "Tenure itself may not be the barrier. What may be needed is to focus more energy on the preparation of administrators for dealing with personnel responsibilities."
North Carolina's strong academic growth also was recognized by the National Education Goals Panel which identified North Carolina as the state showing the most significant improvement during the 1990s. The Panel called North Carolina's and Texas' improvements, which led all states in the combined math and reading achievement on NAEP between 1990 and 1996 "significant and sustained" with large achievement gains occurring for white, black and Hispanic students. The US Department of Education is scheduled to release 1998 NAEP test scores on fourth and eighth grade reading and eighth grade writing within the next few months.
North Carolina's school accountability program is noted in the report as having strong support from lawmakers, educators, the business community and the public. State Board of Education Chairman Phil Kirk said, "Through programs such as NC HELPS, we've targeted additional resources to those schools that need them most, and, as a result, proven that all children can achieve." NC HELPS provides technical assistance through the matching of businesses, higher education institutions and state agencies with low-performing schools.
In addition to the state's strong school accountability program, Education Week gave a top grade to the state's efforts to improve teacher quality. The Excellent Schools Act, the centerpiece of North Carolina's efforts to improve teacher quality, is responsible for bringing teacher pay closer to the national average, rewarding those teachers who've achieved National Board Certification with a 12 percent salary bonus, and providing increased professional development opportunities. Ward credited Gov. James B. Hunt Jr., the NC General Assembly, and the State Board of Education for continuing to show that they are committed to strong leadership in the classroom by supporting the Excellent Schools Act and the ABCs.
North Carolina's next big step is student accountability through stronger student performance standards. The State Board of Education will begin consideration of a policy on student performance standards next week at its monthly meeting in Charlotte. The standards are anticipated to go into effect for students beginning with the year 2000-01. "North Carolina will continue to strive for excellence in the classroom with the ultimate goal of having every student perform at or above grade level," Ward said.
About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 126 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.
For more information:
NCDPI Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.