Politics & Government

Education outlook: Poor grades and little money for improvements

Money for schools, textbooks and teacher pay sits at the core of nearly every legislative session. Throwing an unknown into the usual mash of ideas is the release of school grades in February. For the first time, public schools will receive letter grades of A through F, based largely on student scores on standardized tests.

The grading system was pushed by Sen. Phil Berger and other Senate Republicans as a way to show parents how schools are performing.

Even though the State Board of Education last year changed the grading scale so more children passed, plenty of schools are expected to get D’s and F’s.

The release of what is likely to be a slew of cringe-worthy grades this winter will give the legislature plenty of time to react at a time when alternatives to traditional public schools, including charters, vouchers for private schools and online charters are on the rise.

Presumptive House Speaker Tim Moore says it’s too soon to say how the legislature will respond, but he wants to look at why schools don’t do well and what they need to improve. And improvement doesn’t mean adding more money, he said.

Gov. Pat McCrory is likely to return with a plan for differentiated pay for teachers after his proposal for a teacher career-ladder failed to move last year. McCrory last year proposed pilot projects that would have cost $18 million-$20 million over two years.

Hearing plenty about how many days teachers spend preparing for and giving tests, the legislature may again examine how many tests are required to give educators useful information about student knowledge.

Staff writer Lynn Bonner