Locke gives CMS a D+

The Raleigh-based John Locke Foundation has kicked off this year's school-rating season, grading all N.C. districts and rating Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools below average.

As much as anything, though, the report released today (, under “What's new”) illustrates the challenge of collecting timely data and making sense of it. The conservative think tank and advocacy group relies mostly on 2006-07 data. That's because the state is recalculating how to grade 2008 reading exams, which is holding up release of 2007-08 data.

State report cards for N.C. public schools won't have 2007-08 numbers until Jan.29, 2009. The school-by-school ratings that Superintendent Peter Gorman has promised for CMS won't come out until this fall.

The Locke report, titled “The Parental Prerogative,” says it rates the parent-friendliness of N.C. school districts, using data on test scores, teachers, administrators and safety. The only item directly related to parents comes from the 2008 statewide survey of teacher working conditions: The report looks at the percent of teachers in each district who said school leaders communicate clear expectations to students and parents.

No district earned an A under the Locke formula. Lincoln County, which got a B, was among the top half dozen. Other relatively high-scoring districts in the Charlotte region were Catawba (B) and Union, Mooresville and Iredell-Statesville (C+).

CMS got a D+, pulled down mostly by an F on teacher data (turnover and vacancies in 2006-07).

In general, small districts, especially those in western North Carolina, fared best, the report notes.

Author Terry Stoops, a Locke policy analyst, uses the grades to argue for school choice: “Without the threat of losing its clientele to competitors, many schools and school districts behave like the monopolies they are – focused on strengthening the organization's position and goals, rather than meeting the needs of students and parents.”