The American Legislative Exchange Council, also known as ALEC, says “North Carolina legislators moved the Tar Heel State into the top ranks of education reform with a comprehensive set of K-12 reforms” – citing efforts such as the private school voucher program and the new A through F letter grades for public schools.
ALEC gave North Carolina a C+ grade for the state’s education policies in the new “ Report Card on American Education” report released early Wednesday morning. While North Carolina didn’t get the top grade among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, ALEC singled out the state in a section titled “North Carolina lawmakers go big on K-12 reform in 2013.”
The praise isn’t surprising considering that the Republican-led General Assembly has adopted several laws dealing with education and other topics that mirror model legislation put out by ALEC, which closely ties corporations and conservative policy makers.
ALEC says the state’s new A through F grades for school performance are “a crucial step toward increasing transparency in the system.” But the new program has been harshly criticized by the state’s education establishment, which says that a school’s performance can’t fairly be measured by a single letter grade.
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The new grades will be released by the State Board of Education in February after lawmakers inserted a provision in this year’s budget saying they couldn’t be released before mid-January.
But ALEC’s strongest praise was for the state’s new private school choice program, which got an A grade. Earlier this month, the state Supreme Court unexpectedly moved to take up the appeal of a lower court ruling that struck down the so-called “Opportunity Scholarships” that helped low-income families defray the costs for attending private schools.
“Between these private choice programs and improvements in the state’s charter school laws giving parents ultimate control over their child’s education, it is clear that bottom-up pressure for public school improvement is on the way,” ALEC says in the report.
ALEC wasn’t as happy with North Carolina’s teacher quality policies, giving the state an F grade for exiting ineffective teachers. The state’s efforts to strip career status, also called teacher tenure, by 2018 from teachers who have it was declared unconstitutional by Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood, who had also ruled against the voucher program.