New N.C. Report Card Sizes Up State’s Education System

By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo — December 13, 2000 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Calling on educators, policymakers, and parents to be patient yet persistent, North Carolina Gov. James B. Hunt Jr. said last week that the state’s public schools stand about average on five broad indicators, but face a long road ahead in their quest to be among the best in the nation.

The state’s first report card on its school system, released Dec. 6 as part of Gov. Hunt’s “First in America by 2010" initiative, gave the schools B’s and C’s overall, including high ratings for involving parents in children’s learning and a failing grade for school buildings and instructional materials.

“I want you to be tolerant when you find out that we are not doing as well as we hope to do yet,” Mr. Hunt, who steps down next month, told reporters and educators at a news conference here in the state capital last week. “We’re performing a little better than average, but only a little bit.”

Still, the governor hastened to add, “we’re in a state where we used to perform way down near the bottom [on national indicators].”

State officials hope to issue similar reports on North Carolina’s progress annually. “Today starts the baseline,” state schools Superintendent Michael E. Ward said. “It is a good start.”

B’s and C’s

The North Carolina Education Research Council, an independent research organization based in Raleigh, was commissioned to prepare the report card by a panel of top education leaders in the state known as the “education cabinet.”

That panel, which includes the state schools chief and the chairman of the board of education, set the goals used to assess how well schools measure up.

The research group relied on data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the SAT college-entrance exam, state tests, surveys of teachers and parents, and other state statistics, to determine the grades.

The state school system received a B-minus on three of the indicators: children’s readiness to learn when they enter school, the quality of teachers and principals, and strong family, business, and community support.

Student performance earned a C, based on students’ progress on state and national tests, their preparation for college and work, and school accountability.

School climate, as gauged by safety, the condition of facilities and materials, whether students are cared for by teachers, and whether parents feel welcomed, earned a C-plus.

Because comprehensive national statistics in some study areas are not available, some data used for the report are “rough-and-ready indicators of the present performance of the system,” the report’s introduction says.

The report card looked at five categories: “high student performance"; “every child ready to learn"; “safe, orderly, and caring schools"; “quality teachers and administrators"; and “strong family, business, and community support.”

Each area was graded using several indicators. To determine children’s readiness to learn, for example, the report analyzed data and surveys on child heath and development, the quality of child care, and parents’ roles in their children’s early education.

The state’s grading criteria, while complex, “are tied to some pretty core values” about what factors are important for school success, said Kathy Christie, a policy analyst for the Denver-based Education Commission of the States. “As the old saying goes, it is better to monitor loosely that which matters than to monitor well what is not.”

North Carolina’s Gains

Mr. Hunt, a Democrat who has spent 16 of the past 22 years as governor, laid out his ambitious “First in America” plan last year in the hope of extending his education agenda through the next decade.

The governor is widely credited with helping North Carolina climb out of the basement on national indicators. In the past few years, he pushed successfully for an accountability system that rewards and punishes schools based on how well their students perform on state tests. He was also instrumental in addressing the state’s anticipated teacher shortage, pushing for higher teacher quality and compensation.

The state’s 4-year-old accountability plan has received bipartisan support in the legislature, which allocated more than $1 billion for the program. Some state leaders said they are determined to maintain the efforts.

Over the past decade, North Carolina students have shown greater gains than most other states on NAEPthe federally sponsored assessment of a national sampling of students that also offers state-by-state comparisons—as well as the SAT. But the state still has a significant achievement gap between minority and white students.

The state has raised teachers’ salaries over the past three years, moving from the bottom to the middle on national salary rankings, and the state claims about a third of all teachers certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, with 2,300 teachers. The study found that North Carolina teachers are generally competent, caring, and qualified, but that improvements are still needed in professional development and the percentage of teachers with masters’ degrees.

Mr. Ward said the report shows that teachers and students are ready to do their part. But he said districts must do more to provide them with the tools to succeed.

“I’m encouraged by the reflections on teacher competence and quality,” Mr. Ward said. “But our teachers are working under conditions that just aren’t acceptable.”

The state received one failing grade, on the condition of school buildings and availability of high-quality instructional materials. Too many teachers say schools are overcrowded and that they spend their own money to buy materials, Mr. Ward said.

A version of this article appeared in the December 13, 2000 edition of Education Week as New N.C. Report Card Sizes Up State’s Education System


English-Language Learners Webinar Helping English-Learners Through Improved Parent Outreach: Strategies That Work
Communicating with families is key to helping students thrive – and that’s become even more apparent during a pandemic that’s upended student well-being and forced constant logistical changes in schools. Educators should pay particular attention
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Mathematics Webinar
Addressing Unfinished Learning in Math: Providing Tutoring at Scale
Most states as well as the federal government have landed on tutoring as a key strategy to address unfinished learning from the pandemic. Take math, for example. Studies have found that students lost more ground
Content provided by Yup Math Tutoring
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Nearly a Million Kids Vaccinated in Week 1, White House Says
Experts say there are signs that it will be difficult to sustain the initial momentum.
4 min read
Leo Hahn, 11, gets the first shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. Last week, U.S. health officials gave the final signoff to Pfizer's kid-size COVID-19 shot, a milestone that opened a major expansion of the nation's vaccination campaign to children as young as 5. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Education How Schools Are Getting Kids the COVID Shot, and Why Some Aren’t
Some district leaders say offering vaccine clinics, with the involvement of trusted school staff, is key to helping overcome hesitancy.
5 min read
A girl walks outside of a mobile vaccine unit after getting the first dose of her COVID-19 vaccine, outside P.S. 277, Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
Education Biden Administration Urges Schools to Provide COVID-19 Shots, Information for Kids
The Biden administration is encouraging local school districts to host vaccine clinics for kids and information on benefits of the shots.
2 min read
President Joe Biden, and first lady Jill Biden walk to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. Biden is spending the weekend at his home in Rehoboth Beach, Del. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Education Civil Rights Groups Sue Tennessee Over Law Against Transgender Student Athletes
The state law bars transgender athletes from playing public high school or middle school sports aligned with their gender identity.
3 min read
Amy Allen, the mother of an 8th grade transgender son, speaks after a Human Rights Campaign round table discussion on anti-transgender laws in Nashville, Tenn. on May 21, 2021.
Amy Allen, the mother of an 8th grade transgender son, speaks after a Human Rights Campaign round table discussion on anti-transgender laws in Nashville, Tenn. on May 21, 2021.
Mark Humphrey/AP