North Carolina Senate leaders filed a major education reform bill Monday that will strengthen student literacy, improve graduation rates, increase accountability in the classroom, reward effective teachers and give parents tools to make better informed decisions about their children’s education.
Reforms in the Excellent Public Schools Act include:
· Adding new reading-intensive instruction for students who struggle with reading. Nearly one in four North Carolina students fails to graduate from high school and many drop out because they never mastered the ability to read by the fourth grade.
· Emphasizing the importance of literacy by ending social promotion of students who can’t read at grade level by the end of third grade. Nearly 97 percent of third-graders are promoted to the fourth grade. Yet 66 percent of fourth-graders cannot read at grade level.
· Allowing parents and the public to clearly identify high-achieving, average and failing schools by creating a transparent system to grade schools A to F. This will encourage weak schools to improve and allow parents to determine the best options for their children.
· Establishing a North Carolina Teacher Corps program – modeled on Teach for America – that will give the best and brightest recent college graduates and mid-career professionals a direct path to teach in low-performing schools where students need the most help.
· Rewarding the most effective teachers with bonuses and merit-based pay increases.
· Boosting accountability in the classroom by employing teachers on annual contracts that are renewed based on performance. The current system rewards mediocrity and punishes excellence by granting job security to all who teach a few years.
· Providing transportation and non-instructional support funding for the five additional instructional days already added to the school calendar.
· Allowing state employees to volunteer in a public school literacy program for up to five hours per month.
“In order to fix our state’s broken education system, we must stop constantly reaching for our checkbook and focus on reforming our playbook,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Rockingham). “If bigger budgets could buy positive results, then North Carolina’s achievement scores and graduation rates would have improved years ago. Rather than continue to rely on a failed tax-and-spend model, we need a bold new plan that puts our students first and equips them with skills needed to succeed in the classroom and in their future careers. And we must reward our most effective teachers so they can continue to inspire our children to achieve their best. We are enthusiastic about our education reforms and look forward to working across the aisle to achieve better results for our kids.”
Similar reforms are working in other states across the country. Florida, for example, made substantial gains in its fourth grade reading scores, significantly improved its graduation rates, and saw the achievement gap begin to close after it passed comparable legislation.
The Excellent Public Schools Act was introduced by Berger, Sen. Tom Apodaca (R-Henderson) and Sen. Jerry Tillman (R-Randolph).
View the brochure on the Excellent Public Schools Act.