No pay, no party
When state schools Superintendent Linda C. Schrenko, a Republican, withdrew from the Council of Chief State School Officers in 1995, she obviously didn't know that this year's top teacher would be from Georgia, much less from her hometown of Augusta.
So when Andrew Baumgartner, a kindergarten teacher at A. Brian Merry Elementary School, was being honored in Washington last week as the 1999 National Teacher of the Year, Ms. Schrenko was not among the invited guests.
She called it "petty, partisan politics."
But those are the rules, according to Gordon M. Ambach, the executive director of the council, which sponsors the annual competition. "We were respecting her decision not to participate in council activities," Mr. Ambach said.
Prior to the event, Mr. Ambach said, he received a call from a Schrenko staff member who asked if the Georgia schools chief could attend the ceremonies; Mr. Ambach said only if she paid her $43,000 dues.
Ms. Schrenko pulled out of the council in 1995, citing differences over its positions on GOP-backed proposals to abolish the U.S. Department of Education and cut the federal education budget. The council opposed both measures.
North Carolina officials say their state is closer to its goal of leading the nation on accountability measures, with a unanimous vote this month by the state school board to end social promotion.
The state will administer a test to 3rd, 5th, and 8th graders, as well as an exit exam to seniors. Students will have three chances to pass each test, which will be phased in beginning next year. Students with learning disabilities and limited English proficiency will be exempt.
Phillip J. Kirk Jr., the chairman of the state board, estimated that 10,000 to 20,000 of the state's 450,000 students will be held back a grade after the standards are in place. "This program is not designed to hurt students, but rather to help them," Mr. Kirk said. "It will put the spotlight on schools where there is neglect."
The move against social promotion--the practice of advancing students to the next grade level, despite failing marks, to keep them with their age-group peers--is part of a larger plan by Democratic Gov. James B. Hunt Jr. to make his state the national leader in education by 2010.
--Linda Jacobson & Marnie Roberts
Vol. 18, Issue 33, Page 21Published in Print: April 28, 1999, as State Journal