A statewide survey conducted by a team of UNC Charlotte professors found that the North Carolina’s school superintendents feel the most significant challenges facing public schools are inadequate funding, teacher pay and teacher morale.
The inaugural North Carolina Superintendents Survey on the State of Education in North Carolina was co-authored by UNCC education leadership professors Bob Algozzine, Claudia Flowers, Jim Lyons and Jim Watson.
Sixty-seven of the state’s 115 superintendents responded to an anonymous, 20-question online survey about national and state educational concerns. The survey was conducted during the 2013-14 school year.
“As educational leaders at UNC Charlotte, we wanted to know the perceptions of N.C. public school leaders on current topics,” Flowers said. “Many educational policies/practices appear reasonable, but in practice there are many unintended consequences. It is important to know both the intended and unintended consequences to better education.”
The group is surveying principals about teacher evaluation methods and plans to survey superintendents again in fall, Flowers said.
About 98 percent of superintendents rated inadequate funding a significant problem, while 95 percent rated teacher pay a significant problem.
The National Education Association estimates the average salary for a North Carolina public school teacher in the 2014-15 school year at $47,783, which ranks 42nd nationally. In the 2013-14 school year, the state average was $44,990, or 47th nationally, according to the NEA.
Over the last decade, North Carolina ranks last nationally for raising teacher salaries, according to the NEA.
Watson, 60, is an assistant professor and retired school superintendent who served with Lincoln County Schools until 2007 before moving into higher education.
Watson said data from the survey will benefit superintendents by showing how peers feel, influencing change and educating lawmakers. “It helps superintendents get their messages out,” Watson said.
All superintendents wanted more local control of the school calendar, according to survey results.
Superintendents also believe the increase in charter schools and tuition support for students to attend private schools will hurt school systems, but they supported online courses for high school credit.
The issue of standardized, “high-stakes testing” brought mixed results, Watson said, but overall, superintendents thought the benefits of such testing were not worth the cost.
The survey found, however, that superintendents believed Common Core Standards would improve education.
Almost all superintendents did not want to use armed security guards or armed teachers and/or principals to ensure safe schools, Watson said. Most superintendents report that the current pay-for-performance recommendations and elimination of tenure will hurt or have mixed results in education.
Superintendents feel they are facing inadequate funding to provide the quality education stakeholders expect, Watson said, and the survey underscores the need to better connect economic development and a strong public school system.
The survey was modeled after a similar one conducted by PDK/Gallup, which allows educators and policymakers to track public opinion about public schools.
The study, intended to be performed annually, eventually will be taken over by colleagues and junior faculty, Watson said.
“It will be interesting to see how and if the theme changes as the legislature has an opportunity to change,” Watson said, “and to measure it over time and see if change occurs.
“It also can measure if lawmakers are paying attention.”
To view the survey, visit http://bit.ly/superintendentsurveync.