Under the Dome

NC takeover of low-performing schools up for short session debate

A state House special committee has kept alive for the short legislative session a proposal that would allow a state takeover of up to five low-performing schools.

The bill received unanimous approval from the committee Wednesday, although Rep. Craig Horn, a Weddington Republican, said he has reservations.

The bill would have charter school operators take over selected schools, forming an Achievement School District run by a superintendent hired by the State Board of Education. The charter operators would have five-year contracts to run the schools and be eligible for three-year contract renewals.

A recent presentation by academic researchers highlighted the challenges faced by Achievement School District schools in Tennessee. Student performance at those schools is far worse than promised. Schools that local districts can run like charters, called iZone Schools, have done better.

The bill would allow for the creation of up to three iZone schools in districts that transfer a school to the achievement district.

Rep. Rob Bryan, a Charlotte Republican, has been working for more than a year on the achievement school district bill. The proposal has put more attention on low-performing schools, he said.

If the bill becomes law, the first two schools wouldn’t enter the achievement district until 2018, he said.

Legislators said they are ready to try something new to reverse years of low performance in some schools.

Rep. Cecil Brockman, a High Point Democrat, said he liked the bill because “it’s a change from the status quo.”

But it is unfortunate that implementation will take years, he said.

“Those kids can’t wait,” Brockman said. “Those parents can’t wait.”