Charlotte Observer Op-Ed, 2/12/16


The Network for Public Education is an advocacy group launched two years ago by historian Diane Ravitch and education blogger Anthony Cody. The executive director is Carol Burris, an award-winning retired principal in New York State.

“We are living in a time of unrelenting attacks on the women and men who have dedicated their life’s work to educating and caring for children,” Burris wrote for the NPE website. “Our youngest students are buckling under the pressure of excessive testing, and our most vulnerable children are unfairly classified as failures. Parents are skeptical of and confused by the Common Core. Profiteers are seeking to capitalize on dissatisfaction and confusion. We must now stand together to stop the privatization of our democratically controlled local schools and protect all children’s rightful heritage to a free and equitably funded public education.”

Last week NPE released a report card grading states on their commitment to public education. Researchers at the University of Arizona looked at 29 measurable factors to come up with six criteria and a final tally for each state.

The first criteria measured a state’s response to high stakes testing. Because high stakes tests can be unreliable and have a negative impact on student learning, states that did not use them as exit exams or as part of teacher evaluations scored higher on the NPE report card than states that did. North Carolina received a C, and South Carolina a B.

North Carolina received an F for “supporting teacher professionalism,” a category that includes teacher experience, salaries, attrition rates, and the percentage of university-prepared teachers. South Carolina wasn’t much better with a D.

Three of the criteria deal with school funding: resisting privatization, education spending and investing resources wisely.

About privatization, NPE wrote, “We gave low grades to states that offer vouchers, education tax credits or Education Savings Accounts that can be used for private school tuition, fund charter schools without proper oversight, provide them with facilities for free or subsidized rates, or have ‘parent trigger’ laws that allow public schools to be more easily privatized.” North Carolina scored an F, and South Carolina a D.

For education spending, NPE gave states high scores based on per-pupil expenditures adjusted by regional factors such as poverty, wages, and school district size. They also looked at the ability of states to fund public education based on the gross state product. North Carolina made a D, and South Carolina a C.

States that invest in “evidence-based reforms” such as smaller class size and pre-kindergarten education were rewarded with higher scores than states that invested in high-failure virtual or online schools. Here North Carolina received a D and South Carolina a C.

Finally, the report card looked at the ability of states to give children “a chance for success.” States with a larger proportion of families with adequate employment and financial resources and with schools that are integrated by race and ethnicity scored high. North Carolina and South Carolina both made a D.

When the criteria were averaged, North Carolina rated an F and South Carolina a D.

“Our hope is that this report card will steer us away from policies that undermine our public schools and toward policies that will make our public schools better for all children,” the authors of the report concluded. “It is both a roadmap and a yardstick for citizens and policymakers to guide them and measure their states’ efforts at making public schools more equitable places for students to learn.”

Kay McSpadden teaches high school English in York, S.C.