North Carolina’s public schools End of Course (EOC) test results, showing that a majority of high school students are failing core subjects, points to an even greater problem - the state’s education system is failing to fulfill its mission.
As the state’s educational leaders continue to fumble with decisions about how and when to restart in-person classroom attendance it is obvious that the time has come for parents to step up and demand more control in their children’s education to include school choice.
Frustrated by Governor Cooper’s resistance to in-person classroom participation, and the State Board of Education’s reluctance to show leadership, the N.C. Legislature passed Senate Bill 37 last week mandating a return of all students to the classroom. The bill included the caveat that local school districts should use precautions to minimize possible transmission of the COVID-19 virus.
The bill languished on the governor’s desk for 9 days before he vetoed it, just hours before it would automatically become law. The North Carolina Association of Educators, the state’s teachers’ union, is credited with getting the governor to veto the bill. Governor Cooper in turn convinced one of the bill’s co-sponsors, Sen. Ben Clark, a Democrat, to withdraw his support of the bill to assure failure of a veto override by the state senate.
As this was happening the DPI Superintendent Catherine Truitt was preparing to present test score data that shows a majority of high school students did not pass the fall EOC exams.
The fall EOC data shows that 54.5% of the state’s public school students lack proficiency in Biology compared to 42.1% in the previous year; in Math 1, 66.4% lack proficiency; and 54.9% lack proficiency in Math 3. There was slight improvement in English II for fall semester 2020 with only of 41.4% failing to show proficiency as opposed to 42% lacking proficiency in the previous year.
The superintendent’s office also noted that school districts are reporting that up to 23% of their students are at risk of academic failure and not being promoted to the next grade level at year-end. The charter schools report showed a much better result with little more than 9% of their students considered at-risk for not matriculating to the next grade level.
These public school test scores are not surprising to the teachers, students or their parents who have complained about the lack of quality education time and connectivity as the state stumbled with remote learning requirements. For the past three months parents have been demanding that the education system readjust either the remote learning structure or provide in-person classroom instruction. Their pleas have been ignored by the State Board of Education and the governor.
The indications of failures in the remote learning system were present at the end of the 2020 spring semester following Governor Cooper’s closure of all public schools in March in response to Covid-19 pandemic fears. Parents, teachers and particularly students complained about a chaotic and poorly provided educational experience then.
As the pandemic continued to disrupt all aspects of commerce and social interaction throughout the summer, the governor and the board of education failed to review the spring 2020 educational experience and subsequently did nothing to prepare for contingencies. It didn’t help that the governor waited until July 31, only three weeks prior to schools opening, to decide which operational plans were to be used. This late announcement left the schools scrambling to prepare students, parents and teachers for a system that has been an abject failure.
Now the results are coming home to roost. And still there is no specific direction for local school systems to prepare for the onslaught of poorly educated students who are anticipating moving up to the next grade level. The board of education has been busy dallying with social studies curriculum standards to appease social warrior activists and is only now beginning to worry about the educational crisis impacting a quarter of the state’s public student population.
The state’s education system is rudderless. The State Board of Education leaders along with Governor Cooper are obviously more concerned about politics than they are about the primary mission of educating students. With that conclusion the only option for parents, their children and the teachers who care about their profession is to seek alternatives or demand a change in leadership.