By Gene Arnold
The latest word from the State Board of Education is graduation rates for North Carolina are at an all-time high, 80%. Yet polls suggest confidence in public schools has declined dramatically. Let us pause for a moment.
In the past twenty years we have implemented the ABC’s program which paid $100 million plus in bonuses to teachers and asst. teachers. The Teaching Fellows program was actively providing scholarships to 500 promising new teachers annually and required them to teach four years to maintain their scholarship. Alternative schools have been developed for problem students. Over 100 charter schools have reduced the overcrowding load in traditional public schools. The federal government creation of No Child Left Behind demanded higher standards and a more rigorous curriculum. Race To The Top provided additional federal funding for education. Early Childhood Development programs have been maintained.
Could any of these activities have played a role in the improvement in the graduation rates? Government authorities don’t seem to think so. It has eliminated the Teaching fellows Program, eliminated teacher bonuses, replaced the SAT with the ACT, added 5 days to the school year which amounts to ten minutes per day, No Child Left Behind is being phased out, and Race to the Top funds will be eliminated in two years.
On the horizon is Common Core Standards which must still be implemented, increased emphasis on reading and math skills, and more emphasis on after school programs as a learning opportunity. These programs must face a large budget shortfall which may have a negative impact on school funding.
One can only hope and anxiously wait for future release of graduation rates.
Gene Arnold is a former NC legislator and NC SPIN Panelist