NC lawmakers discuss ways to help state’s lowest performing schools

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – North Carolina lawmakers are looking at a proposal that would change who is in charge of some of the state’s lowest performing schools.

And lawmakers are considering what is the best way to do that in North Carolina.

“The focus is improving under-performing schools,” Rep. Rob Bryan (R-Mecklenburg).

A plan is on the table that would take five of the state’s lowest performing elementary schools and group them into one district, called an achievement district.

The state would select a charter school operator to try to turn the school around.

“We have to think about what we can do right now. At some point, it really does ring hollow to say these things take time,” said Rep. Edward Hanes (D-Forsyth). “What we really need to do is start focusing on what’s best for the kids. I don’t know that is necessarily this bill.”

If it’s approved, the plan would be a pilot program in North Carolina starting in the 2017-18 school year.

A school selected would have to be in the lowest five percent of all schools.

The school would also have to not be meeting or exceeding recent growth expectations.

If approved, it would enter into a five-year contract with the achievement school district.

“We’re talking about just five schools to start and we’re trying to make sure our selection process for those schools is one that will work,” Bryan said.

Some lawmakers questioned whether the state should focus on efforts already underway.

“We’ve got to step it up. That’s why I said in here, perhaps let’s do more of what we’re already doing so we can get more kids more quickly,” Rep. Craig Horn (R-Union).

Lawmakers are planning to hold two more meetings on this topic. One meeting in February and another in March.

They’re looking to hear from the public and also from states that have this type of school district.

The other states that have achievement school districts include Louisiana, Michigan and Tennessee.

The State School Board Association hasn’t taken a stance on the proposal but say they have concerns about potential staffing issues with tenured employees.

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