A few people have asked me what I thought of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) legislative agenda. First, thanks for asking. Second, CMS’s agenda is a mixed bag. I’ll tackle the major/controversial proposals.
1. Adding student academic growth to student proficiency (test scores) as a way of measuring student achievement.
Growth has been a part of the ABCs testing program for a while, and the state plans to add academic growth measures to teacher evaluations. But there is no reason why specific student and school growth (value-added) statistics could not be added to the NC School Report Cards and the DPI websites. The more information we have, the better.
2. Give local school systems more flexibility in deciding how to use state money.
The John Locke Foundation has been a strong proponent of this idea for a long time. I think the state could add flexibility in two ways. First, block grant funding to school districts. Second, allow districts to establish their own salary schedule.
3. Begin a phased, multi-year approach to raising teacher base pay to the national average.
When we get to the national average, what will happen? Will our schools improve at a rate comparable to increases in pay? If getting to the national average in teacher salary is a means to an end, then what is the end? If it is an end in itself, then CMS has their priorities confused. By the way, where will state and local governments find this magic money fairy? Remember that mandated pay increases required additional state and local funds. Mecklenburg County may be able to keep pace with a multi-year increase, but many other counties and cities would not.
4. Give final authority to chartering schools to local school boards.
Yes. I would support a plan that would increase the number of charter school authorizers. I would not support a plan that shifts the entire responsibility to districts. The UNC System and NC State Board of Education should retain their authority to authorize charter schools.
5. Allow local school systems to construct academic calendars (state law currently mandates start and end dates for the school year).
I have argued that school districts should be able to construct school calendars according to the needs and desires of the district and, more importantly, the community. Yes, some school districts will make bad school calendar decisions (among others). That is why I would support a “parent calendar trigger” that would set up a process by which parents with children in the school district could vote to discard a calendar. If this occurred, the district would be required to receive community input and implement a new one.