CORRECTION: Due to a reporting error, the original version of this story misrepresented the views of Deborah Eaker-Rich. Eaker-Rich did not say she supported some of the report's findings nor did she question the grading scale. She said the report makes some important observations and noted the entire nation is graded poorly in the report. She also did not say those in the School of Education are making moves to change policy. Rather, she said they look at policy and research the impact of it on education. The story has been updated to reflect these changes.
The report ranked schools according to a variety of categories, including the emphasis the state places on high stakes testing, the professionalization of teaching and the amount of tax money spent on public education by the state.
Each state’s public education system received an overall GPA — no state scored better than a “C,” and North Carolina received an “F.”
“We give low marks to states that devalue public education, attack teachers and place high stakes outcomes on standardized tests,” Diane Ravitch, president of the Network for Public Education, said in the introduction to the report.
The highest ranking states in the report were Iowa, Nebraska and Vermont, all of which received a cumulative GPA of 2.5. North Carolina was one of the five lowest ranked states, receiving a cumulative GPA of .83.
“The political climate for public education in N.C. has been rough in recent years,” said Diana Lys, assistant dean of program assessment, accreditation and teacher preparation in the UNC School of Education.
Lys said she attributes many of the shortcomings of public education in the state to legislative changes by policymakers.
“The loss of teacher tenure and compensation for advanced preparation, an increase in charter schools, which may divide community support, and the over-reliance on high stakes testing to rate students, teachers and schools are all factors contributing to this negative rating,” she said.
According to the report, North Carolina received failing grades in both the professionalization of teaching and resistance to privatization. Last year, the state Supreme Court approved the North Carolina Opportunity Scholarship — a voucher program that allotted up to $4,200 a year for each student to attend private schools — and teacher turnover in North Carolina has been increasing for years.
Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, said North Carolina is engaging in policies that are destroying public schools, and the state of North Carolina public education is becoming a serious problem for children.
The Network for Public Education will hold a conference in North Carolina to confront the state of the public education system, she said.
Deborah Eaker-Rich, interim dean of the UNC School of Education, said in an email it's important to note the entire nation is graded poorly in the report — not just North Carolina.
“This report reflects the perspectives of a group that is critical of much of the recent moves in education policies,” Eaker-Rich said.
She said the Network for Public Education is critical of state education policy that has maintained standardized testing as a measuring stick for student performance and has moved slowly toward charter schools.
“This report reflects that view, which doesn’t make it wrong, but rather emphasizes the importance of being aware of underlying perspectives in any interpretation of policy reports,” she said.
Those in the UNC School of Education research the impact of policy on public education, Eaker-Rich said.
“There has been a lot of change in N.C. educational policies in recent years, and the impacts of those changes will be studied to learn how effective they have been,” she said.
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