03/11/06 — Factors: School success determined by more than personnel

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Factors: School success determined by more than personnel

Taken at face value, Judge Howard Manning Jr.’s pronouncement to state school officials that he will not hesitate to close any North Carolina high school that does not show improvement in its student performance is a show of strength and resolve that should be admired.

After all, the judge is simply saying to state schools Superintendent June Atkinson and Board of Education Chairman Howard Lee that he will no longer tolerate schools that are not striving to provide the best possible education for the state’s students.

He does not ask them to fix all the problems immediately. He only asks that the state leadership push harder to get these schools back on the improving side of the achievement continuum.

And, again at face value, the judge’s advice to get rid of any principal or personnel who are not meeting expectations themselves is also not such a bad idea. If the leadership in a school is not functioning properly, how can the school’s students succeed?

Improving education in North Carolina is a critical duty for the state’s leaders. Providing an equitable opportunity for students across the state to get the skills they need is a goal that can no longer be set aside for the next year, and the next year, and the next year.

So, to make sure that there is some action instead of a lot more talking — shaking the state school leadership up a bit might not be such a bad idea.

But where, do you ask, does that leave Goldsboro High School — one of the 19 schools named specifically by the judge as in need of drastic action.

Goldsboro High School’s scores are low. There are many children there who are not testing at state minimum levels in one or more subject categories. And that is a statistic that the leadership at that school and in the county office are well aware of.

The scores have improved — and the school’s teachers and principals know that they have more work to do. But that doesn’t mean that they are not facing an uphill climb to change those scores from failing to passing.

There are many more factors than simply quality of instruction at work here. Home life, economic conditions and other external factors play a role in student success — and many of the negatives associated with these areas are there in abundance at Goldsboro High.

So, improving education at Goldsboro High really must start with addressing some of the challenges students face outside the classroom. And that is a task that cannot be fixed by changing principals 100 times.

What it does require is a good, hard look at what really drives education success and then quantifying how to get it here — and around the state.

Published in Editorials on March 11, 2006 10:44 PM