Monday, May 21, 2007

This Week in the Education Committee

Looking over the calendar for Tuesday's committee meeting, I see an interesting litany of issues lining up for attention:

Raising the cap on charter schools (HB30) - Do it. Yesterday.

UPDATE 12:55 5/22/07 -- The Locke Foundation's Becki Gray reports that Republican Tom Tillis and the committee respond: Not yesterday, and not 2007 either. As we used to say in the military, "Request denied; please resubmit in triplicate for final denial."

Amending the health ed curriculum to tell grades 9-12 how to legally abandon a baby (H485) - O tempora! O mores! If the alternative is infanticide, and if unwed teenaged mothers are those most likely to do this, it makes sense to be sure they know the rules that were meant to prevent babies dying in dumpsters.

Prohibiting corporal punishment in schools. (H853) - If the practice is not producing results in the schools now, I wonder if its repeal will have any measurable effect. I can't foresee any improvement in student discipline and performance, but I don't know if the lack of whatever corporal punishment now exists will

Repealing free UNC tuition to graduates of the N.C. School of Science and Mathmatics (H1269) -
It's a great perk for students who successfully complete a very challenging academic program. My wife, who graduated in the first class of NCSSM, started college with a full year of credit as an incoming student. On the other hand, Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs are much, much more widespread than when we were in high school and NCSSM was Governor James Hunt's new brainchild. The University of North Carolina is already one of the most highly subsidized public universities in the nation. Why should the taxpayers continue paying even more, particularly since these students have already received two years of free room and board in a college-like campus environment, for an illusory benefit -- as if North Carolina schools and businesses are unable to attract or keep talented young students or employees.

Raise the compulsory attendance age to 17 and implement a "task force for 100 percent graduation by eighteen" (H1790) - Almost guaranteed passage in some form, I would say, yet a gesture and nothing more. If a student has given up on the educational process by the age of sixteen, will chaining him to his desk for another year make up for the failures of the previous decade? I doubt it, but it will cost state and local taxpayers another six thousand dollars or so per student and retain the least committed (or "most indifferent"?) students as a burden in the system. To me, it makes little economic or educational sense.

As for 100% graduation, I have a hard time taking it very seriously so long as the state juggles the results of its own internally normalized testing program. If the internal markings of the yardstick are re-drawn every time the measurement is unsatisfactory, why keep the overall length the same, if a major complaint is that enough students don't reach the end? High school used to end at grade 11, and Governor Easley's "Learn and Earn" program which compressed the last year of high school and the first year of college demonstrates that Grade 12 could probably be eliminated once again. "More of the same" is not a radical improvement.

Establishing a right of non-certified school employees to know why they're being disciplined (H1827) - At least, without having to ask for it. One wonders if standard practice is to "dismiss, demote, or suspend" uncertified employees without giving a reason.


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