Standards and Accountability: North Carolina has clear and specific standards at the elementary, middle, and high school levels in all subjects except social studies/history, for which standards are clear and specific in high school only.
The state has tests aligned with its standards in each grade span in English and mathematics, but only at the high school level in science. The state relies heavily on multiple-choice tests; it uses extended-response questions only on English exams.
North Carolina is perhaps best known for having a strong system of holding schools accountable for results. The state publishes test data on school report cards, uses the data as part of its school rating system, and provides help to schools rated low-performing. It also imposes sanctions, such as private management, on schools that fail to improve, and it provides monetary rewards to high-performing or improving schools.
Efforts to Improve Teacher Quality: North Carolina scores in the top tier of states this year on such efforts. The state is one of 16 to require basic-skills and subject-specific-pedagogy tests as well as subject-knowledge tests for both middle and high school teachers. But it leaves coursework requirements up to individual teacher-training programs.
Those programs are then held accountable for whether candidates pass the required subject-matter tests.
North Carolina issues an annual performance report for each teacher-preparation program. The reports include graduates’ passing rates on teacher-certification tests.
In addition, the institutions must have 95 percent of their graduates successfully convert from an initial to a continuing teaching license. The state also surveys mentors and principals about the performance of program graduates in the field. It uses such information to identify exemplary and low-performing programs, and to hold the programs accountable for the classroom performance of their graduates.
The state closely regulates the certificate that alternative-route teachers must obtain. To be issued a “lateral entry” license, a candidate must have a major in the subject to be taught or pass a Praxis II specialty-area exam. All beginning teachers in the state also take part in an initial-licensure program that includes three years of mentoring, two of which the state pays for, as well as an evaluation of each teacher’s classroom performance by a team of local experts. School report cards include such information as the percentage of fully licensed teachers and teacher-turnover rates. This year’s reports also include information on the percentage of classes taught by “highly qualified” teachers.
School Climate: North Carolina conducts an annual survey of teachers’ working conditions. That makes the state one of 17 that collect data about school conditions from students, teachers, or parents.
The state is one of six states and the District of Columbia that still do not have open-enrollment policies. But it gains points for having a charter school law that the Center for Education Reform has rated moderately strong.
North Carolina’s indicators for school size keep its grade in this category down. The state has a lower percentage of students attending small schools than most other states. Another contributing factor in its grade is lackluster outcomes in absenteeism, tardiness, and classroom misbehavior, based on the National Assessment of Educational Progress background survey.
Equity: North Carolina’s indicators for resource equity are mixed.
The state ranks 45th out of the 50 states on the wealth-neutrality score, which indicates that inequities in state and local revenue for education are tied substantially to local property wealth. Even so, the state ranks ninth out of the states on both the coefficient of variation and the McLoone Index, suggesting that the finance inequities across districts in North Carolina are less than in most other states.
Spending: North Carolina spent $7,086 per pupil in the 2001-02 school year, which ranked it 39th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia. That figure represents only a 2.4 percent increase from the previous year. Fewer than 5 percent of students in the state attend schools in districts that spend at least the national average. North Carolina ranks 32nd out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia on the spending index, which measures how many students are in districts spending at or above the national average, and how far the rest must travel to reach that benchmark.
The state spends 3.1 percent of its total taxable resources on education, which is below the national average. Its spending increased at an average annual rate of 1.8 percent from 1992 to 2002, after adjusting for inflation.