We reported last month that Gary Henry—an education researcher from Vanderbilt University who led one of the nation’s first studies of achievement school districts—had not been invited to address North Carolina’s select legislative committee on the school reform model.
Apparently, that is no longer the case.
The office of Rep. Rob Bryan, the Republican from Mecklenburg County who chairs the House Select Committee on Achievement School Districts and the legislature’s leading proponent of the controversial model, confirmed for Policy Watch Friday that the lawmaker is rescheduling Wednesday’s planned committee meeting to fit into Henry’s schedule.
No replacement date has been finalized as of this moment, although Bryan spokesman Kevin Wilkinson said he is expecting the committee to meet twice in March before the legislature reconvenes in April.
Wilkinson said Bryan wanted to include speakers for and against the achievement school district during the committee meeting, which will likely also include some public comment portion. Wilkinson said Henry told him he would plan to attend the committee’s meeting, whenever it is scheduled, in March.
The committee is considering a relatively new reform that could turn over management of low-performing schools to for-profit charter operators. As part of the reform, achievement school districts would also delegate hiring and firing powers in the school to the charter operators.
Bryan is hoping to launch the achievement districts in North Carolina as soon as the 2017-2018 academic year, although the model has earned less than stellar reviews in its initiation in states like Michigan, Louisiana and Tennessee.
Henry’s study found “no detectable effects” on students’ test scores in achievement school districts in Tennessee, the researcher told Policy Watch. And, in some cases, students test scores dropped.
Nevertheless, Bryan has said the achievement districts could be a means for turnaround in some perpetually low-performing school districts.
“We are neither Tennessee, nor are we New Orleans,” Bryan said in last month’s committee meeting. “But what I’m looking to do here is do what’s right for North Carolina.”
Policy Watch reported last year that lobbying for the legislation was being financed by a right-wing, school choice advocate from Oregon named John Bryan, no relation to the North Carolina lawmaker.