Friday, June 1, 2012

Weigh in on fast-track N.C. ed reform

N.C. Sen. Bob Rucho, a Mecklenburg Republican, has sent out an electronic newsletter urging constituents to read up and weigh in on the Excellent Public Schools Act that's moving through the legislature this summer.

This bill's a bit of a puzzler.  I understand frustration with snail-paced change.  But I'm also skeptical of the notion that a bunch of lawmakers can whip out the answers during a "short session" that's generally designed for minor touch-ups to the budget,  rather than deliberation on changes that will reshape education in North Carolina.

For instance,  Rucho offers this explanation for the benefit of grading schools A to F:  "To ensure improvement in schools that receive failing grades, we're creating a new North Carolina Teacher Corps program  --  modeled on Teach for America  --  that will give the best and brightest recent college graduates and mid-career professionals training and a direct path to teach in low-performing schools where students need the most help."

Even the folks who love Teach For America don't claim it's the solution for failing schools,  and those who don't like it are going to be doubly wary of a reform plan that relies on pumping in a new flow of inexperienced teachers.

There's also a performance-pay mandate with no money attached.  Ask Peter Gorman how that worked out for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools last year.  The idea of intensive reading instruction before children reach third grade is also straight from Gorman's playbook.  It makes so much sense,  but for CMS,  it fell into the "easier said than done" category  (read this study on the results, which found little benefit).

All of those questions and quibbles make Rucho's basic message well worth sharing:  "Our children deserve better than the status quo. They deserve bold solutions, outside-the-box thinking and robust public debate about which policies will make a better North Carolina for our students. Our plan is not partisan, and we welcome suggestions on ways to improve it. We may need to scale back some aspects, or press harder on others. Regardless, creating better classrooms requires constructive cooperation from both sides of the aisle, not inflammatory rhetoric and wild accusations about who really cares for our children. I hope you'll read our bill, SB 795, at and weigh in with letters and calls."

The link in the first paragraph will take you directly to the bill, and the link gives you easy access to your representatives. Have at it!

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