RALEIGH Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger on Tuesday unveiled what he called the second round of education reforms aimed at holding schools and teachers more accountable for students progress including ending tenure and grading entire schools.
The days of accepting a broken education system in North Carolina are over, Berger said at a news conference flanked by several Republican senators. We must continue to demand better and positive change for our kids.
Berger characterized the plan outlined in Senate Bill 361, filed Tuesday as one that will improve literacy and graduation rates.
Last year, Berger introduced the same bill. But with Gov. Bev Perdue, a Democrat, in office and Republicans not yet holding a veto-proof majority in the General Assembly, only some portions with compromises were included in the budget.
Berger told reporters he expects the bill to be more successful this year. He said the makeup of the legislature has changed, and the problem still exists.
The new bill is back with much of the wording that Berger originally wanted last year. The legislation would result in major changes to public education in North Carolina by spelling out how schools would be graded and ending tenure.
The legislation would spell out the details for how schools would be given A through F letter grades to measure their performance. Those grades would be listed on report cards given to parents. The bill would base the grades on factors such as performance on state tests, national exams and graduation rates.
The grading program is modeled on a similar program used in Florida. Supporters say it will better let parents know how well their childrens schools are doing.
The grading system was adopted as part of the budget last year. But as part of the budget compromises, it was left up to the state Board of Education to develop the standards for the grading system. The new bill would have legislators set the standards.
Critics, including many educators, say the grading system will unfairly result in many schools being shown as being low performing. Its been called an equivalent of a scarlet letter.
Critics say that a school report card system shouldnt be based on just one grade and shouldnt only use passing rates. They say it should reflect how much progress the school is making toward improving passing rates.
The new bill says that the state Board of Education can list growth on the report cards but it cant be used to change a schools letter grade.
The bill also represents Bergers latest effort to end tenure for teachers. Under current state law, teachers who have completed four years of service can receive tenure, meaning they can only be fired for a specific cause. Teachers with less experience can be fired for any reason.