The Sept. 5 Point of View “How will N.C. help failing students?” by Mark Trustin objected to the repeal of Personal Education Plans. The writer, an attorney who sues school systems, bemoaned the idea of “terminating our public schools’ only legal requirement that schools identify and help students who are failing.”
To the contrary, North Carolina’s public education system is built on a constitutional tenet, “the means of education shall forever be encouraged. ... Equal opportunities shall be provided for all students.” Judge Howard Manning clarified it further in Leandro v. State of North Carolina, when he ruled on the duty to “provide a sound, basic education to all students.”
Plenty of legal bases exist affirming public schools’ obligation to identify the needs of and to serve all students. Classroom teachers sought the repeal of PEPs because they were not a solution for students at risk of failure. PEPs were required about a decade ago and were a laudable idea. Over time, other education reforms have been adopted, and PEPs became redundant and obsolete. Educators reported that, in some cases, entire classes had PEPs, even children with special needs for whom Individualized Education Plans are required by federal law.
PEPs’ variance among school districts is striking and confounding. Yet within a school, PEPs were often “cookie cutter” plans to meet a school requirement, not truly individualized to the student. PEPs had become a paperwork burden that did not change or enhance a teacher’s plans for struggling students. Teachers know which students are at risk of academic failure and how to help them succeed.
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No evidence exists that PEPs made any statistically significant difference for students. With so many indicators – progress reports, interims, assessment data and report cards among them – educators are well-equipped to identify at-risk students and develop plans for their success.
Educators need the freedom to use their training, experience and best judgment to meet the needs of all students. Another piece of paper to satisfy a “legal” requirement does nothing more than create a paper trail from which litigation may be generated. It doesn’t help students.
Furthermore, our State Board of Education dropped the requirement to receive PEP data in 2013, raising further questions about their merit. I agree with the writer about one thing: More should be done to follow through on assessments and interventions, to assess those that work and those that don’t. If such reviews were done, recognition of PEPs’ obsolescence would have occurred long ago.
The PEP repeal bill drew bipartisan and nearly unanimous support. It was sponsored by House Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, the only active K-12 teacher in the General Assembly. Other House sponsors included former teacher Bryan Holloway and Rick Glazier, a former school board member. Senate sponsors were Jerry Tillman, a retired superintendent, and Tom Apodaca, husband of a retired educator.
PENC thanks lawmakers for hearing educators’ pleas to allow them more time to do their jobs – to teach.
PENC board member, eighth-grade math and science teacher, Caldwell County Schools
The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response to the POV.